How BuzzFeed UK handles its redundancies will tell us a lot about the future of the business

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

BuzzFeed UK to make 45 staff redundant

The website’s London workforce was briefed on the plans on Thursday evening. In a tweet later confirmed by the company, media and politics reporter Mark Di Stefano said 45 of the bureau’s 140 editorial and commercial staff will lose their jobs.

That’s quite a leap from the 20 originally mooted:

Editor Ben Smith says 20 staff will be let go in London.

— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) November 29, 2017

It also indicated that the UK operation is being disproportionally hit by the cuts.

Just under a third of BuzzFeed’s UK workforce will be gone at the end of this process. That creates not only a difficult time for all the staff, facing employment uncertainty over Christmas, but also a serious hit to morale, as the remaining staff come back to a depleted office with many of their friends gone.

What’s triggered such an alarming slash and burn?

[…] Comscore data reveals a 20% decline in BuzzFeed UK’s unique users over the past two years.

And filing show growing revenue being eaten away at by growing costs.

In short, we’re seeing management failure ina growing business. And that, in turns, means watching who goes will be a very interesting insight into the long-term management health of the business. A dynamic like this should lead to some senior management losses, as the need for the layoffs is clearly a manifestation of poor decision making at the higher levels.

If we see a layoff of purely front-line journalist and business staff, then Buzzfeed UK has two fundamental problems:

  1. A lack of management accountability for bad business decisions
  2. An increasingly top-heavy business, with associated cost overheads

It would also impact morale even further. “Hey, we’re generating ever more revenue, but because management screwed up costs management, a bunch of you are going to lose your income.” It does not inspire confidence.

Let’s hope we don’t see that, as it would raise very serious questions about the long-term viability of both BuzzFeed UK and of corporate management at the company.

business strategyBuzzfeedmanagementpublishing strategy

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.