Ben Smith on the Death of BuzzFeed News
On April 20, 2023, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced that BuzzFeed would be closing down its newsroom and laying off 15 percent of its staff. The news came amidst a deluge of headlines about struggles in the media industry, including: layoffs at NBC, Vox, NPR, Spotify, Insider, News Corp, ABC, and Gannett; the closure of MTV news; bankruptcy at Vice. But the end of BuzzFeed News in particular symbolized the end of an era. BuzzFeed's rapid rise and success in the late aughts and 2010s helped define the style and format of digital media. In 2013, BuzzFeed was getting 130 million unique viewers a month. Disney made an offer to buy BuzzFeed for half a billion dollars that same year, which Peretti turned down. In 2016, BuzzFeed was valued at $1.7 billion. And then, last fiscal quarter, BuzzFeed reported $106 million in net losses. In this conversation, Brooke talks with Ben Smith, the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Semafor and author of the new book, Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral, about his goals in building a newsroom at BuzzFeed, the lessons he learned, and what he thinks about the future of of news.