BuzzFeed News Top editor Mark Schoofs leaves ahead of newsroom cuts

The head of BuzzFeed News and two other top editors are leaving the company pending editorial cuts.

Mark Schoofs, who became editor-in-chief in 2020, said in an email to employees on Tuesday that he would be stepping down. He said Tom Namako, the deputy editor-in-chief, and Ariel Kaminer, the editor-in-chief of investigations, would also be leaving the company. Mr Namako said in a tweet that he joined NBC Digital as an executive editor.

Mr. Schoofs said in the email that BuzzFeed had subsidized the news division for years and that the “next phase” was for BuzzFeed News to become profitable on its own.

“As a result, BuzzFeed News will have to shrink in size again,” he said, adding that the company hoped to achieve this through voluntary acquisitions rather than layoffs. He said the buyouts would be available to those engaged in research, science, politics and inequality.

BuzzFeed News’ strategy executive editor Samantha Henig will serve as interim editor-in-chief while a search is made for his successor, Mr. Schoofs added.

BuzzFeed chief executive Jonah Peretti said in a separate email to staff on Tuesday that BuzzFeed News “should prioritize the areas of focus that our audiences interact with most.” He also announced further job cuts within the company, including on the BuzzFeed video team and editorial team for Complex Networks, a lifestyle publisher that BuzzFeed acquired last year, as well as its business and administrative teams.

“The cuts are impacting about 1.7 percent of our total workforce,” Peretti wrote, “and we don’t take that lightly.”

BuzzFeed’s layoff and editorial cutbacks are a major blow to BuzzFeed News, one of the most sloppy and most successful digital news operations in the country. Started in 2011, the newsroom made a name for itself with innovative storytelling and investigative reporting and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for a series that revealed the extent of China’s internment of Uyghurs.

But it has struggled financially and contracted at various times. In 2019, BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its entire workforce. In 2020, BuzzFeed News ended its operations in Australia and the United Kingdom. Late last year, the news division’s parent company, BuzzFeed, began trading the stock market, mounting pressure for better financial results.

The staff’s departure on Tuesday came as BuzzFeed first reported its financial results as a publicly traded company the same day. BuzzFeed reported most recent quarter revenue of approximately $145 million, up 18 percent from the same period a year earlier. Earnings in the most recent quarter rose to $41.6 million, up 29 percent from the same period last year, although this was supported by tax provisions and other accounting items.

The company said it expected revenues for the current quarter to fall by “a low single digit percentage” and to post an adjusted loss of between $15 million and $20 million.

BuzzFeed shares were mostly flat on Tuesday, trading around $5.

BuzzFeed went public in December by merging with a special purpose company, or SPAC, in a deal that valued the company at $1.5 billion. The company is now worth about $660 million. Before the merger, investors in the SPAC withdrew about 94 percent of the money raised, leaving BuzzFeed with just $16 million.

Last week, nearly 80 former and current BuzzFeed employees filed massive arbitration proceedings against the company, accusing them of illegally trading their shares over clerical errors. The claims seek damages estimated at more than $8.7 million. BuzzFeed said there was no basis for the claims.

During an earnings call on Tuesday, Mr. Peretti said vertical short video, such as the one on TikTok, was emerging as the “preferred content format” for young people and that the company would accelerate its investments in such videos.

He said the changes at BuzzFeed News would accelerate profitability.

“We will prioritize investments around coverage of the biggest news of the day, culture and entertainment, celebrities and life on the Internet,” Peretti said.

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