Media industry loses about 1,000 jobs as layoffs hit news organizations

About a decade ago, traditional news organizations faced an emerging threat from a host of digital upstarts, outlets that provided the news immediately, onli...

Posted: Jan 25, 2019 7:49 AM

About a decade ago, traditional news organizations faced an emerging threat from a host of digital upstarts, outlets that provided the news immediately, online and for free. Today, a new threat seemingly looms over the entire industry, as one reckoning after another comes for both print and digital shops alike.

This week reaffirmed just how dire things have gotten within the industry, with about 1,000 jobs in media lost as the result of layoffs announced at BuzzFeed, HuffPost and Gannett — the nation's largest newspaper chain.

BuzzFeed announced Wednesday that it would lay off 15% of its workforce, or about 220 employees; Verizon announced it would cut 7% or approximately 800 jobs from its media division, which includes brands like HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo News; and Gannett slashed dozens of jobs at newspapers across the country.

The severity of the cuts at Gannett came to light through various media reports and as journalists who were laid off tweeted out the news. The Poynter Institute's website, which in part provides news coverage of the journalism industry, noted in a story that "the cuts were not minor" and affected well-known journalists, including a 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist.

On Thursday, some HuffPost employees who had been let go also shared their stories on Twitter. Among those affected was Jason Cherkis, a reporter who was a finalist for a Pulitzer in 2016. Bryan Maygers, the head of opinion at HuffPost, said he was told the site's "opinion section is no more."

Staffers at BuzzFeed will have to wait until next week to learn their fate.

Each case has unique characteristics, but the root causes are the same. The layoffs come during a turbulent time in digital media, and the journalism industry as a whole.

Media companies have struggled in recent years to grapple with declining advertising revenue that has been eaten up by technological giants like Facebook and Google.

Some news organizations have also been affected by dwindling web referrals from Facebook, which altered its algorithm in 2016 to favor user-generated content after having once served as a firehose of traffic for publishers.

Additionally, as digital media companies like BuzzFeed have tried to weather the storm that is wreaking havoc on the industry, they have been under increasing pressure from venture capitalists, who have provided sizable rounds of funding, to deliver results.

In his note to staff, Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed's co-founder and chief executive, referenced the difficult news environment. He said the company was restructuring to put it on "firm foundation" to deal with the "evolving economics of digital platforms."

A Verizon Media spokesperson echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that the layoffs were part of a "strategic step toward better execution of our plans for growth and innovation into the future."

For print publications, like the more than 100 papers owned by Gannett, those ad dollars began to drop as readers increasingly got their news on the internet.

Instead of waiting for the next day's newspaper or the evening news, suddenly consumers could venture online to read about the day's top stories on websites like HuffPost, which was founded in 2005 and offered news for free to anyone with an internet connection.

Some established print publications with a built-up pedigree like The New York Times have been able to mitigate these trends with paywalls. But smaller, local publications like those owned by Gannett have been unable to adapt.

The shift in news consumption made digital outlets profitable in the eyes of venture capitalists, who showered various online startups with cash. One such digital darling was BuzzFeed, which was launched in 2006 by Peretti, a HuffPost co-founder.

BuzzFeed became wildly popular with its clever exploitation of Facebook's algorithm and its constant spigot of viral content. About six years after it launched, BuzzFeed was empowered enough to venture into the journalism business with its own news division.

BuzzFeed News has indeed established itself as a high-profile newsroom, churning out a number of high-prized scoops in recent years. But this week's layoffs exposed the company's own vulnerabilities, as it suffered the same fate as other digital outlets that have struggled to compete with Facebook and Google for advertising dollars.

Last year, Peretti even floated the possibility of consolidating with other digital brands in an effort to combat the advantages enjoyed by those tech giants — a sign that news media's food chain has been upended once again.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 268672

Reported Deaths: 5917
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
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Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
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