According to press reports, HuffPost, which was recently acquired by Buzzfeed, is laying off 47 employees. HuffPost’s editorial staff union says that 33 of its members were included in the 47 number, about a third of the entire union. Since lots of these people are people I know from within my professional community, the news hits pretty hard. Yet another in a seemingly endless stream of layoffs at news organizations – just in this case I know a lot of these people.
The brass at Buzzfeed seemed to handle the layoffs in a particularly clumsy way. But we shouldn’t miss the real story here: Many of these news operations simply are not financially viable. They don’t bring in enough money to sustain their expenses. Indeed, many of them – way more than you’ve been led to believe – were never financially viable. They were floated on on-going infusions of new investment money chasing big payoffs that were probably always illusory. Then they hit the brick wall of the rapid consolidation and automation-driven price declines in the ad industry. Indeed, whole territories in the firmament of digital news media were simply based on lies. Not lies that had anything to do with the journalism or the journalists. There was simply no business model there to make the whole thing work.