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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 8:49 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 708779

Reported Deaths: 13226
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion966191721
Lake51761946
Allen39224672
Hamilton34549405
St. Joseph34157541
Elkhart27356432
Vanderburgh22081394
Tippecanoe21853212
Porter17935299
Johnson17544374
Hendricks16822310
Clark12697190
Madison12353337
Vigo12219244
Monroe11469166
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Delaware10366184
Howard9664211
Kosciusko9134114
Hancock7990139
Bartholomew7893155
Warrick7691155
Floyd7563176
Wayne6906198
Grant6844171
Boone6556100
Morgan6405138
Dubois6085117
Marshall5786108
Dearborn570376
Cass5685102
Henry5579101
Noble542683
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Shelby479495
Lawrence4342118
Gibson429089
Harrison428570
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Miami372865
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Warren79715
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Union69910
Ohio55811
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1054807

Reported Deaths: 18991
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1225191356
Cuyahoga1074592069
Hamilton783261168
Montgomery50176996
Summit45557909
Lucas40298765
Butler37768570
Stark31513895
Lorain24246473
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Lake20067362
Clermont19459229
Delaware18085130
Licking16149207
Fairfield15757197
Trumbull15627460
Medina14922259
Greene14706236
Clark13660293
Wood12806185
Portage12431196
Allen11352229
Richland11067198
Miami10548214
Muskingum8717127
Wayne8594209
Columbiana8569226
Pickaway8439121
Marion8390135
Tuscarawas8387240
Erie7600154
Hancock6730123
Ross6707146
Geauga6553146
Ashtabula6530165
Scioto6295101
Belmont5634158
Union558447
Lawrence5470102
Jefferson5343147
Huron5314114
Darke5273121
Sandusky5189120
Seneca5139120
Washington5087107
Athens503856
Auglaize476284
Mercer471984
Shelby456590
Knox4397108
Madison423959
Putnam421799
Ashland413488
Fulton410567
Defiance404296
Crawford3883101
Brown386955
Logan374476
Preble371098
Clinton362160
Ottawa357978
Highland347459
Williams328674
Champaign321557
Jackson308551
Guernsey307549
Perry290549
Fayette278048
Morrow275939
Hardin264764
Henry264366
Coshocton259857
Holmes253499
Van Wert239262
Pike233831
Gallia233446
Adams229152
Wyandot227553
Hocking209759
Carroll189447
Paulding168838
Meigs141738
Noble132937
Monroe128941
Morgan106823
Harrison105636
Vinton81614
Unassigned02
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