Buzzfeed to close Australian news operations

Buzzfeed will no longer cover local Australian stories, with staff to be told today about stand-downs.

A Buzzfeed spokesperson told Mumbrella the decision to effectively pull out of Australia was for “economic and strategic” reasons so the struggling outfit could focus on “news that hits big in the United States”.



Instead of local news, Australian audiences going to Buzzfeed will be offered content built out of the publisher’s Buzz, Video and Tasty brands. English-language news “that resonates globally” will also be available from international teams.

Buzzfeed will also no longer have local coverage of news in the UK, however some UK staff will be retained to focus on “news with a global audience”, the spokesperson said. This includes social news, celebrity and investigations.

Buzzfeed is shifting focus to ‘global’ news and content

Buzzfeed was already running a significantly shrunken operation in Australia since it first soared in popularity with its listicle and pop-culture content, before expanding to also cover serious news for younger audience. Buzzfeed News’ tagline is ‘reporting to you’, and locally it covered stories of refugees, political scandals, abortion rights, the financial struggles facing younger generations, and the impacts of COVID-19.

In Australia, Buzzfeed’s news operation is led by Lane Sainty, who has been with the organisation since 2015. Gina Rushton, Hannah Ryan and Cameron Wilson are also reporters for Buzzfeed News in Australia, while Peter Holmes is Australian copy editor.

Buzzfeed’s Australian operation also has some content producers and sales people, and the organisation told Mumbrella these staff will remain on the ground.

Last year, the company had already suffered a significant round of redundancies, including general manager Simon Crerar.

At the time, a spokesperson told Mumbrella the organisation remained committed to the Australian market.

“We’ve built a strong brand, loyal audience, and growing business in Australia and BuzzFeed remains committed to building on that foundation for the long-term,” the spokesperson said at the time.

Two months ago, Buzzfeed Australia’s vice president of business partnerships, Andrea Ingham left the business to relocate to Adelaide.

In its statement about the changes, the company was keen to focus on its US survival.

“In the US, we are open to considering other options in our negotiations, including workshare programs. Those options need to meet our savings goals, be legally and logistically workable, and allow us to keep providing kinetic, powerful journalism,” the spokesperson told Mumbrella.

“Specifically, we are inviting the News Guild to work with us to see if, instead of furloughs, we can use a program called ‘workshare’ to meet our cost-cutting goals. We look forward to our discussions and negotiations with the Guild — including on workshare — so that we can reach the savings we need and produce the high-tempo, explosive journalism our readers rely on.

“The company is still investing heavily in News. This year, we project that News will spend about [US]$10 million more than it takes in, and roughly [US]$6 million next year.

“Going forward, our new deputy editor in chief will be Tom Namako, who has already done so much to lead BuzzFeed through the COVID crisis. On Friday, Mark Schoofs will share more about our new editorial structure and vision.”


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