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One digital media giant BuzzFeed is acquiring another, Verizon-owned HuffPost, in an all-stock deal that brings together two companies that have struggled to get profitable with big staffs to support and ad revenue declines in the pandemic.
As part of the deal, Verizon Media is paying BuzzFeed an undisclosed cash investment and will be a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed, according to The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news.
Inside both companies, speculation and rumors about layoffs — particularly from the HuffPost side — flew this week, according to several employees that Business Insider spoke to.
“The first reaction was shock,” said a BuzzFeed editorial staffer. “It’s a newsroom that cares about people. People started wondering about their counterparts at HuffPost and if they would lose their jobs.”
Over at the HuffPost, most staffers learned of the acquisition from the Journal, HuffPost’s report on the deal said.
Read more: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti faces his toughest leadership test ever as the media company could lose millions this year
“We were certainly surprised,” said Celeste Lavin, front page editor and union representative at HuffPost.
Some insiders said that BuzzFeed would be a better owner for HuffPost than Verizon, and staff spent time Slacking each other about how BuzzFeed’s benefits package compares to that of Verizon.
The most obvious place for cuts will be in operational, admin and finance roles, but staffers also wondered about how any overlap between the newsrooms would be handled.
BuzzFeed said that the two newsrooms would remain separate with BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti running both businesses and BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs overseeing both newsrooms.
But one source pointed to an internal FAQ document sent to BuzzFeed staffers that they said sent mixed messages, and that it’s unclear how long the two companies will stay independent.
The FAQ, which has been viewed by Business Insider, said that BuzzFeed and HuffPost “will compete for scoops and stories.” It also encouraged the newsrooms to work together. “At the same time, we will all be part of the same company, which means that we can learn from and collaborate with them.”
Both newsrooms are repped by unions — HuffPost by the Writers Guild of America, East; and BuzzFeed News by the NewsGuild of New York. HuffPost’s union has about 130 members while the company has around 250 employees. While the unions don’t protect staffers from layoffs, they do give employees some protections.
“Our union members are concerned about the possibility of layoffs and grateful we fought so hard for a successor clause so our union contract and rights embedded in it will carry over no matter our owner,” Lavin said.
A search is underway to hire a HuffPost editor-in-chief that will report to Schoofs.
According to one source at HuffPost, executive editor Hillary Frey has been filling in as top editor and could be a candidate for the editor-in-chief role. One person who talks to people involved floated The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her work on …read more
Source:: Business Insider