Buzzfeed to focus on US, shuts British and Australian operations

SYDNEY: Groundbreaking website Buzzfeed said on Thursday that it would be shuttering part of its loss-making news operations in Britain and Australia, as it scales back global ambitions to cut costs.

“For economic and strategic reasons, we are going to focus on news that hits big in the US during this difficult period,” a company spokesperson said.

Many news outlets have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with plummeting advertising revenues and already struggling operations pushed deeper into the red.

Ten staff in Britain and four in Australia will be furloughed, in a move that is expected to become permanent.

The company will no longer cover local news in the two countries, but said: “In the UK, we still plan on retaining some employees who are focused on news with a global audience – social news, celebrity, and investigations.”

The four Australian posts were “no longer essential during this time of sharply limited resources”, the company added.

Once maligned as a funnel for little more than celebrity gossip, clickbait lists and cat pictures, Buzzfeed has developed into a news force to rival more established outlets.

“BuzzFeed gave us space to experiment with covering politics for a young audience,” Australian news editor Lane Sainty tweeted.

She lauded her staff’s work to “tackle important and often under-covered beats like abortion, LGBTQ rights, Indigenous affairs, immigration and internet culture”.

“I’ve always been grateful for that & very proud of our work.”

More cost-cutting measures are expected, including in the US, where “workshare programmes” are being touted as a way of avoiding furloughs.

“Those options need to meet our savings goals, be legally and logistically workable, and allow us to keep producing kinetic, powerful journalism,” Buzzfeed said.

This year “news will spend about US$10 million more than it takes in,” it added.