BuzzFeed Halts News Operations in Australia and U.K.

BuzzFeed will halt its news production operations in Australia and the U.K., the company confirmed. Like many, the digital organization has been hard hit by the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Both for economic and strategic reasons, we are going to focus on news that hits big in the United States during this difficult period. Therefore, we will notify staff in the U.K. and Australia that we are not planning to cover local news in those countries. We will be consulting with employees on our plans regarding furloughs and stand-downs in these regions,” a company spokesman told Variety by email. It is understood that this involves four staffers in Australia and ten in the U.K.

“In the U.K., we still plan on retaining some employees who are focused on news with a global audience — social news, celebrity, and investigations,” the statement added.

The company expanded from social entertainment into news journalism in Australia in 2014. The cutbacks are part of a series of global cost reduction plans that are still being outlined.

Last week, BuzzFeed said that it hoped to avoid layoffs during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, and that it would instead furlough 68 U.S. staffers without pay through mid-August. Among other cost-cutting steps, the firm will also extend pay cuts until the end of the year.

On Friday, Mark Schoofs, the new editor-in-chief, is expected to explain more about BuzzFeed’s new editorial structure and vision. Among the changes, Tom Namako, who has helped lead BuzzFeed through the COVID-19 crisis, is set as the new deputy editor-in-chief.

However, the cuts are not expected to fully eliminate financial losses in the newsroom. “The company is still investing heavily in news. This year, we project that news will spend about $10 million more than it takes in, and roughly $6 million next year,” the spokesman said.

“In the U.S., 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 producing kinetic, powerful journalism. Specifically, we are inviting the NewsGuild 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 said.

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