Nov 19, 2020 - Economy

BuzzFeed to buy HuffPost in all-stock deal

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

BuzzFeed has agreed to buy progressive news website HuffPost from Verizon Media in an all-stock deal, the companies announced Thursday.

Why it matters: HuffPost was once one of the most-trafficked news websites on the internet, but an over-reliance on social media distribution and a lack of strategic vision stripped the site of relevance in recent years.

  • The company — which was co-founded as The Huffington Post by BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti, Arianna Huffington and media mogul Ken Lerer — was renamed HuffPost in 2017.
  • Its big, bold headlines and its sprawling network of contributors allowed it to scale across the internet quickly.
  • Verizon Media has been looking for a buyer for HuffPost for years.

Deal details: Verizon Media will invest in BuzzFeed, taking a minority stake in company. The deal is expected to close at the beginning of next year.

  • According to an internal memo sent from Peretti to staff, little will change in the short term on a day-to-day-basis. "Our business strategy is to make sure that the two newsrooms maintain their own identities to preserve the big and loyal audiences that each has built up," he wrote.
  • BuzzFeed News will remain a separate news organization, as will HuffPost. HuffPost will continue to operate its own website, social channels and app. It will also have its own editor-in-chief, which the company is still looking to hire.

What's in it for BuzzFeed? Scale for cheap.

  • BuzzFeed will add HuffPost to its network of big internet brands that perform well on social media and are good for selling commerce, like Tasty.
  • In a memo to employees about the deal obtained by Axios, Peretti said "HuffPost is one of the few digital content brands that is universally known, with significant scale, and a passionate, loyal audience that is different from ours."

What's in it for HuffPost? A lifeline.

  • Verizon has had to write down nearly half of its media investments that stem from pricey acquisitions of sites like AOL and Yahoo.
  • AOL bought HuffPost for $315 million in 2011. At the time, HuffPost's sale was considered one of the most successful venture capital exits in media.

What they're saying: The companies are billing the deal as a combination of synergies that will "unlock revenue for both companies through content syndication, new sales opportunities, commerce and [augmented reality]."

  • “Verizon Media’s strategy has evolved over the past two years to focus on our core strength — ads, commerce, content and subscriptions," said CEO Guru Gowrappan.
  • "With the addition of HuffPost, our media network will have more users, spending significantly more time with our content than any of our peers," said Peretti.

The big picture: Media consolidation has picked up speed over the past year, as the industry scrambles to survive the tough economic climate made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

What's next: Verizon Media says HuffPost will still be a content syndication partner for its distribution brands, like Yahoo — and that BuzzFeed will be able to syndicate content across Verizon’s Media brands. Verizon Media, which has a strong ad sales infrastructure, will continue to do ad sales for HuffPost.

Note: Former HuffPost co-founder and chairman Ken Lerer, who also served as the chairman to BuzzFeed, is an investor in Axios.

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