The media publishing industry is in a bad shape across the board, in both its traditional and internet-native segments, and it doesn’t seem like the trend will be reversing any time soon.
The turmoil at BuzzFeed is providing yet more evidence of this.
It was supposed to be a bullet-proof business model: clickbait and listicles peppered with legitimate journalism, and a very strong and close relationship with advertisers.
In a way, BuzzFeed was seen as a model for the future of journalism and publishing, by and large struggling to keep the lights on in the digital age.
But judging by the the news out of the internet company, it ended up sharing some of the same problems as the traditional media, such as being forced to carry out massive job cuts in an effort to “restructure” and find profitability.
It was precisely the laying off of 15 percent of BuzzFeed’s employees earlier in the year that gave the idea to those remaining to try to secure better conditions for themselves by unionizing.
The BuzzFeed News US workforce would like to enjoy “better benefits and fair pay,” said a report from Bloomberg.
But stalled negotiations with the company’s ownership have reportedly pushed BuzzFeed employees to organize a walkout, planned for Monday. The idea apparently came from their colleagues over at another large internet publisher, Vox Media, who last week managed to strike a union deal. Reports said that they received guarantees of minimum salary and four months paid parental leave.
Besides BuzzFeed, Vox is another internet-native company that is trying to fix its problems by laying employees off: among them are also Verizon Media Group, AOL, and HuffPost, Nieman Lab reported in January.
BuzzFeed’s latest round of layoffs saw 220 people being forced to leave the company, on top of the 100 jobs lost in this way in 2017. The company’s valuation was $1.7 billion the year before, while revenue reached $300 million in 2018.
When CEO Jonah Peretti announced the layoffs he said the goal was to avoid raising more funding in the future, noting that “revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run.”