BuzzFeed, the digital media startup approaching its 10th anniversary, is splitting into two divisions. According to Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed “will separate itself into two distinct departments—BuzzFeed News and a newly formed BuzzFeed Entertainment Group (BFEG)—in a move aimed at solidifying its dominance in digital video.”
In a companywide memo that BuzzFeed shared with Yahoo Finance, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote, “Having a single ‘video department’ in 2016 makes about as much sense as having a ‘mobile department’ … As digital video becomes ubiquitous, every major initiative at BuzzFeed around the world will find an expression as video.” BuzzFeed News will “expand” under editor-in-chief Ben Smith, while the newly created BFEG will be led by Ze Frank, president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.
BuzzFeed did something very similar to this just seven months ago.
In January, as Yahoo Finance reported at the time, BuzzFeed combined two divisions, Buzz and Life, into a group called… BuzzFeed. And it combined three teams—social, app, and homepage—into a group called News Curation.
The changes, Ben Smith wrote in a memo at the time, were about “how we can work better together, inside editorial and as a global company, as we move into a world where the web is just one of the places we operate, and posts are just one of the things that we publish.”
In addition, BuzzFeed let go of some editorial staffers at the time, the company confirmed, though it said they were not related to the restructuring. BuzzFeed says this new restructuring will not directly result in any layoffs. But Yahoo Finance did hear of more editorial cuts at BuzzFeed back in the spring.
One BuzzFeed employee who left within the last year, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered some color to Yahoo Finance in May about the changing culture at the company.
“It’s not operating like a startup anymore,” the person said. “With that, morale became extremely low and I think people were made a lot of promises that fell through. There’s also very big salary drama happening. Every single person there is unhappy with their pay.”
The source suggested that staffers who got cut often do not know why—a point that four other former BuzzFeed employees also made in interviews with Yahoo Finance in January. “They always tell us that if someone leaves the person will know why, that they were warned first,” the source said. “But everyone who leaves says they were not warned and don’t know why they’ve been cut.”
In an all-staff email from 2014, obtained by Yahoo Finance, Ben Smith addressed this very problem. “What we try to do, and will try to get better at: Make sure things don’t come out of a blue sky, and if things aren’t working, that you know from your editor that there’s an issue and you’re trying to fix it,” he wrote.
Lastly, the former employee said, “I think the value of editorial writers there is low, now, and all the value is placed on video people.” That would match the theme of the new changes at BuzzFeed, which are based around prioritizing video.
BuzzFeed had no comment for this article beyond sharing with Yahoo Finance today’s companywide memo about the reorganization. Read it below:
We are making a big change at BuzzFeed that will simplify our organizational structure, allow us to operate more entrepreneurially, and help us better serve the hundreds of millions of people who enjoy BuzzFeed each month.
In this new structure, video won’t be the job of just one department. Having a single “video department” in 2016 makes about as much sense as having a “mobile department”. Instead, it will be something we expand and embed across the organization. As digital video becomes ubiquitous, every major initiative at BuzzFeed around the world will find an expression as video, just like everything we do works on mobile and social platforms. Instead of organizing around a format or technology, we will organize our work to take full advantage of many formats and technologies.
To that end, we will expand BuzzFeed News under Ben Smith’s leadership across platforms. BuzzFeed News will encompass the work that is rooted in reporting and journalistic independence — on topics both serious and fun — and focused in the long term on building the trust of our audience. Practically speaking, this means we’ll be adding some existing editorial groups, including our health team, to the global news operation that includes beat reporters, breaking news team, investigative reporters, and foreign correspondents under BuzzFeed News. Our recent expansion of video news under Henry Goldman will also become part of the BuzzFeed News organization, and we will continue to expand that news video team. In this new structure, Ben will focus primarily on news, his first and enduring love.
Simultaneously, we are establishing a new department called BuzzFeed Entertainment Group (BFEG) that will provide an umbrella for all our entertainment content. Ze Frank will no longer focus exclusively on video and assume a new role as President of BuzzFeed Entertainment Group. In addition to his current team, Peggy Wang, Tommy Wesely, and their team of talented artists, designers, and storytellers will report up to Ze and Jeremy Briggs will join that team and continue his work expanding entertainment video in NYC and helping people make video for the first time. This new structure will allow us to focus on being the #1 entertainment brand globally, across many platforms, in formats that include short and long form video, posts, lists, quizzes, micro-content, and more.
We have ambitious goals for both departments. We have an opportunity to be the leading entertainment company for the mobile, social age. And we are in position to build the the #1 global news brand for a new generation who consume news differently than their parents, but care passionately about what is happening in a quickly-changing world.
This structure will allow us to be better at entertainment and better at news. It will also complete our shift to becoming a cross-platform media company, with entertainment and news both living on our site, our apps, and distributed on platforms across the web in multiple native formats. And the new structure will better support our international teams, which will continue to be organized regionally, and draw on both BFN and BFEG for support, resources, and content.
Can’t wait to see what BuzzFeed Entertainment Group and BuzzFeed News will do in the coming years!
Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering technology, media and sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.