BuzzFeed Revenue Fell Sharply in 2023 as CEO Jonah Peretti Figures Out Turnaround Plan

BuzzFeed touted its recent sale of Complex as a milestone for the struggling media company.

 Founder and CEO of BuzzFeed Jonah H. Peretti.
BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti.  Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BuzzFeed Inc.

BuzzFeed (BZFD)’s content and advertising revenue fell sharply in the last three months of 2023 but managed to turn a slim profit of $3.5 million, the company said in its 2023 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings report today (March 25). Quarterly revenue came at $75.7 million, down 26 percent from the year prior. Full-year revenue fell just as much to $252.7 million. 

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One bright spot is that time spent by BuzzFeed’s audience on its media products grew 3 percent in 2023 to 306 million hours. However, time spent on BuzzFeed content on its third-party platforms declined by 32 percent last year. All the earnings numbers exclude the pop culture media brand Complex, which BuzzFeed sold in February and was classified as “held for sale” in the December report.

Almost a year ago, BuzzFeed shuttered its newsroom, BuzzFeed News, and let go all 180 employees as a result. The media company’s co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti said he’d over-invested in BuzzFeed’s news brand trying to keep it afloat to no success. Since the decision, Peretti has spoken about shifting the company’s focus to content creators and artificial intelligence (A.I.) instead.  During the earnings call, he said A.I. will first impact the programmatic and affiliate lines of revenue for the company, but also shared some of his vision for future uses of the technology in content creation.  

“Our teams are starting to create content that feels more alive that has intelligence embedded in it that can interact with people that can personalize the experience for different people,” Peretti said on a call with analysts today.” And all of that is the very beginnings of what I think is the new medium and for content companies, particularly digital media content companies like BuzzFeed that is going to be a huge driver of future growth as that new medium starts to emerge.”

At the end of 2023, the struggling digital media company had $36 million in cash and $128 million in debt, partly stemming from its $300 million acquisition of Complex 2021. At the time of the acquisition, BuzzFeed took out a $150 million loan from several hedge funds that’s due this year. On the earnings call, CFO Matt Omer said $31 million of that loan is still outstanding. “The unsecured lenders do have an option to call the debt in December this year,” Omer said. “However we expect that we’ll be able to work with them in advance of the date of the call option.”

BuzzFeed sold Complex for $109 million in February. Peretti said that the offload would help BuzzFeed invest more into its remaining brands, including HuffPost, which is now the company’s only news offering. He also said the sale would aid BuzzFeed’s A.I. innovation goals.

BuzzFeed has also gone through some leadership changes in the last few months. The company’s chief financial officer Felicia DellaFortuna left in November to take on the same role at Enthusiast Gaming. Two months later, in January, its president Marcela Martin resigned to pursue other opportunities. DellaFortuna’s role was filled immediately by Omer, who was formerly finance and treasurer chief, while Martin’s was absorbed by other executives in the company. BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen also stepped down in November and was succeeded by former editorial chief Jess Probus.

When Peretti was asked on the call if he planned to hire a new President, he did not answer, but instead announced that the company was promoting Ken Blom, vice president of business strategy and operations, to chief business officer.

 

This story has been updated with BuzzFeed’s change in publisher and the announcement of Ken Blom’s promotion to chief business officer.

BuzzFeed Revenue Fell Sharply in 2023 as CEO Jonah Peretti Figures Out Turnaround Plan