BuzzFeed Acquiring HuffPost in Merger Deal but Newsrooms Will Remain Separate

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Jonah Peretti, Co-Founder of Buzzfeed (L) and Actress Lena Waithe speak onstage for The Power of Human Connection in Creativity: A Conversation with Lena Waithe, Emmy-Winning Writer and Actress, "Master Of None" and Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO, BuzzFeed during the Fast Company Innovation …
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company

In a merger of two digital media warhorses, BuzzFeed has agreed to acquire HuffPost from Verizon Media in a stock deal that is expected to boost BuzzFeed’s already outsized footprint in the left-wing media space. The deal comes at a time of significant challenges in the digital news industry as online advertising continues to falter in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The acquisition, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is part of a larger agreement between BuzzFeed and Verizon Media under which the companies will syndicate each other’s content and explore joint advertising opportunities. Verizon Media will get a minority stake in BuzzFeed as a result of the tie-up, the Journal reported.

The value of the deal remains mostly under wraps. The Journal cited anonymous sources saying that Verizon Media is making an undisclosed cash investment in BuzzFeed in addition to the stock deal for HuffPost.

BuzzFeed founder and Chief Executive Officer Jonah Peretti will reportedly run the combined company. BuzzFeed will also lead the search for a new editor-in-chief of HuffPost, a position that has been vacant since Lydia Polgreen stepped down in March.

HuffPost was cofounded in 2005 by Arianna Huffington with Andrew Breitbart, Kenneth Lerer, and Peretti.

“I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years,” Peretti said in a statement to the Journal. “But BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come.”

A reported email from BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Mark Schoofs said that the two newsrooms will remain separate entities. “So while we have another powerful journalism brand in the house, Buzzfeed News will stay true to its mission, individuality, and editorial independence.”

However, Schoofs said that HuffPost’s new editor-in-chief will report to him.

Both BuzzFeed and Huffpost have experienced significant headwinds in recent months as the digital news industry continues to reel from the one-two punch of a declining advertising market and the coronavirus. BuzzFeed enacted furloughs and layoffs this year, cutting 50 jobs in July, or nearly six percent of its domestic staff.

Those cuts came after BuzzFeed eliminated a whopping 15 percent of its staff last year as the media giant continued to struggle to reach profitability. HuffPost also cut staff last year as part of a larger digital media bloodbath that saw numerous online news outlets shrink their workforces.

Digital outlets have seen their advertising revenue sapped by Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google. They are blaming these platforms for soaking up ad dollars while benefiting from original reporting done by others. The coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the industry’s outlook as advertisers everywhere cut back on spending.

HuffPost was acquired by Verizon in 2015 in a $4.4 billion deal for AOL. Verizon has implemented layoffs throughout its media portfolio in recent months, including at TechCrunch and Yahoo.

In the last four years, both BuzzFeed and HuffPost have covered the Trump presidency with an aggressively negative slant. BuzzFeed News published the notorious and unverified “pee dossier” in 2017, prompting President Trump to call the site a “failing pile of garbage.”

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