The heavyweights of free online news in America were surprised by a new wave of layoffs, a sign of a cheap economically dependent model of advertising.
The logo of the BuzzFeed news website is viewed on a computer screen. Image: EWN.
NEW YORK – The heavyweights of online news in America, BuzzFeed and HuffPost, this week were shaken by a new wave of layoffs, a sign of an economic model dependent on advertising under the # 39; threat
In BuzzFeed, it was the second wave of labor cuts in 14 months. In an internal statement, the company said that 200 jobs were launched, which followed the 100 jobs that were cut in the first round, with a staff of 1,700 people.
After HuffPost, about 10% of journalists left editorials this week, or about 20 people in total.
No explanation was given about the cuts, but the reasons are clear.
The parent company of HuffPost is Verizon Media (formerly Oath Inc), owner of other digital platforms such as AOL, Yahoo! and the Verizon media services, all of which are suffering from cuts in work.
"They began with the idea of trying to bring together a large audience and sell ads against these numbers," said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.
But "Google and Facebook have become much, much more of an audience. And they are also better to collect information and address people."
According to eMarketer's forecasts, the search engine giant and the social network giant were established to capture 57.7% of advertising revenues in 2018, with an intensity of 45.5% in 2011.
Another technological master, Amazon, is gaining momentum and has just hit the numbers three points.
"The free, ad-based model on which many digital media projects are built is in danger," warned Dan Kennedy, journalism professor at Northeastern University.
Edmonds believes that neither BuzzFeed nor HuffPost are in danger of disappearing. But its state is dimmed in the eyes of many technology investors accustomed to a two-digit annual growth.
The co-founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, who is also co-founder of Huffington Post (now HuffPost), Jonah Peretti, sees a solution in a merger with one or more market players.
It has publicly published the ideas of merger of Vice, Vox, Refinery29 and Group Nine, all "pure players", all Internet media.
Each one of them also advanced in the video niche, but all have also been reducing staff in the last 18 months.
"He'll never hear me say that a merger makes sense," said Kennedy.
"Two problem-mediated organizations do not solve them by combining themselves in a larger organization with problems."
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Another possibility is to change the business model to access other income streams.
BuzzFeed is launching a daily program on Twitter, one weekly on Facebook and another program on Netflix.
However, BuzzFeed does not appear to be prepared to change its format to offer more specialized content: the successful formula of other free information sites such as Eater, Political, and Vulture.
Of course, the nuclear option is still available: switch to a payment system, a movement that has become increasingly a necessity for online news.
"For any news gathering operation that is advertising-dependent, it's dangerous," said Christopher Daly, journalism professor at the Boston College of Communication.
"From my study of history, I would say that the only truly reliable source of finance for journalism is the audience. They are more reliable than advertisers, rich patrons or political parties or any other source," he says. say Daly.
In November, BuzzFeed launched a $ 5 monthly subscription plan that offers access to newsletters and additional content. The main place remains free.
"I think that's hard when you've gotten used to doing it for a long time," said Edmonds, referring to a possible paid site for BuzzFeed and HuffPost.
For Edmonds, the two news sites "both have journalism, but it's somewhat mixed with lighter content on the side.
"I do not think that people pay a lot for that. This would be a difficult transition for them," he said.