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BuzzFeed and peers are in survival mode

Feb 22, 2024
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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

BuzzFeed's latest moves are part of a larger trend of formerly acquisitive digital media companies transitioning from buyers to sellers.

Why it matters: Once high-flying media brands are shrinking as the digital ad market tightens further.

Driving the news: BuzzFeed announced the sale of Complex for $108.6 million, a company it paid nearly triple for as part of its SPAC in 2021. BuzzFeed said on Wednesday that the sale does not include "Hot Ones" producer First We Feast.

  • BuzzFeed also said it will lay off 16% of its workforce.
  • The Independent is in talks to take control of BuzzFeed's U.K. and Ireland operations for both BuzzFeed and HuffPost, per Reuters.
  • BuzzFeed has explored selling its food brands, First We Feast and Tasty, per The Wall Street Journal.

By the numbers: BuzzFeed's shares have been pennies on the dollar for nearly a year, with a market cap well below what it just earned for Complex.

State of play: Digital media companies previously sought to succeed through acquiring and launching new properties. But that has changed in a big way.

  • Vox Media, which an executive once dubbed the "most acquisitive company" in digital media, spun off its political brand NowThis last year. It laid off 4% of its overall staff in November and 7% last January.
  • Vice Media, acquired by a Fortress-led syndicate after filing for bankruptcy, sold i-D magazine to Karlie Kloss and laid off staff last year. It also was in talks to sell Refinery29, per WSJ.
  • G/O Media, owned by private equity firm Great Hill Partners, sold Lifehacker to Ziff Davis last March and Jezebel and Splinter to Paste in November. However, CEO Jim Spanfeller recently told Axios the company could still pursue acquisitions in its "passion areas."
  • BDG has done continuous rounds of layoffs. It recently cut editorial staffers on its parenting brand Fatherly, per Adweek. That came after at least four rounds of layoffs over 12 months.
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