When BuzzFeed announced last year that it would buy HuffPost, it was expected that cost-cutting would follow the completion of the deal. On Tuesday, less than a month after the acquisition went through, BuzzFeed laid off 47 workers at HuffPost and closed the publication’s Canadian edition.
At a virtual company meeting, BuzzFeed’s chief executive, Jonah Peretti, said the layoffs were meant to stem losses at HuffPost. HuffPost, which was previously owned by Verizon Media, lost more than $20 million last year and was on track to lose the same amount this year, Mr. Peretti told the staff according to an account of the meeting provided by BuzzFeed.
Employees were given a password to enter the meeting — “spr!ngisH3r3,” a variation on the phrase “spring is here.” The staff members were then informed that if they did not receive an email by 1 p.m., their jobs were safe. The website Defector first reported on the password and other details of the meeting, which were confirmed by two people who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. A BuzzFeed spokesman told The New York Times that the company regretted the password’s tone.
The HuffPost Union, which is affiliated with the Writers Guild of America East, said in a statement that the layoffs had affected 33 of its members, nearly a third of the local union. “We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” the union said in a statement.
As part of the cutbacks, BuzzFeed closed HuffPost Canada and announced plans to decrease the size of its operations in Australia and Britain, the BuzzFeed spokesman said. At the end of the austerity measures, HuffPost would still have a larger newsroom than BuzzFeed News, the spokesman added.
In the meeting, Mr. Peretti said that HuffPost’s executive editor, Hillary Frey, and its international executive editor, Louise Roug, had decided to leave the company. HuffPost has been without an editor in chief since Lydia Polgreen departed a year ago to become the head of content at Gimlet Media, a Spotify-owned podcasting company. Mr. Peretti said he expected to announce Ms. Polgreen’s successor in the coming weeks.
Whoever takes the job will report to Mark Schoofs, BuzzFeed News’s editor in chief. At the meeting, Mr. Peretti reiterated that BuzzFeed and HuffPost would remain distinct from each other, with separate editorial staffs.