BuzzFeed is making a major organizational change that cleaves its journalistic efforts from its entertainment-focused content, founder Jonah Peretti announced in a memo to staffers Tuesday.
Citing a desire to "simplify our organizational structure" and "allow us to operate more entrepreneurially," Peretti announced that the social-first media company will formally divide BuzzFeed News, the reporting division overseen by Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, from a new division called BuzzFeed Entertainment Group.
Here's Peretti's rationale for the reorganization, explained in a memo to staff provided to Poynter by BuzzFeed:
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.
The story was reported first by Vanity Fair.
In an interview with Poynter, BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith acknowledged the move distances the company's news division somewhat from the "listicles and cat GIFs" cliche used endlessly by media reporters in association with its news brand. But he didn't mind it that much, anyway.
"I’ve always seen that parenthetical as a benefit to us," Smith said. "Both because it’s allowed us to defy expectations and because we have a huge audience that loves everything we do, and that allows us to tap into it."
When asked whether the move is an attempt on BuzzFeed's part to distance its more lucrative entertainment business from its news division in preparation for a possible sale, as reported by CNN, Smith denied it outright. As part of today's reorganization, BuzzFeed News has gained a video team from the company, a sign that BuzzFeed writ large is committed to investing in news, he said.
He allowed that the turbulent economic environment that's engulfed the news industry is bound to give rise to hand-wringing, however.
“It’s the news business," Smith said. "Everyone’s always speculating and worrying about the apocalypse. That’s the nature of the business for the last 40 years, and I don’t begrudge anyone who speculates about that.”
Here's Peretti's full memo:
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!