Buzzfeed is the latest media company to announce a public debut, this time via SPAC.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed is in talks with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to consolidate with other digital media companies including Complex Networks, which runs the pop culture site Complex. If it goes through, Complex Networks wouldn't be the first acquisition for Buzzfeed — in November 2020, Buzzfeed bought HuffPost in a stock deal. By going public, Buzzfeed hopes to compete for ad dollars dominated by tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
The SPAC in question, 890 5th Avenue Partners, is run by investor Adam Rothstein. If the name rings a bell, it may be because the blank-check company is named after the Avengers’ headquarters. Buzzfeed’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, could announce the final deal with Complex Networks as soon as this week.
Buzzfeed, which Peretti founded in 2006, developed as a spinoff of HuffPost, which Peretti also co-founded alongside Ariana Huffington. The site became known for its listicles and online quizzes, but Peretti’s desire to delve into serious journalism was apparent early on. In 2011, Buzzfeed News was launched, and it became its own site seven years later. A 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Buzzfeed News reporting on Uyghur internment in China cemented its place as a reputable news source after years of financial instability at its parent company.
Despite the success of Buzzfeed and its News spinoff, Peretti had been struggling to make his company profitable — in 2020, Buzzfeed reported a net profit for the first time since 2014. Peretti had to make tough decisions to keep the company afloat, cutting $30 million in expenses in 2020, as well as laying off 50 workers that year, 200 workers in 2019, and 100 more in 2017. The pandemic also prompted the company to issue salary cuts on a sliding scale for its staff. Peretti, meanwhile, has taken no salary during the pandemic.
According to our data, Buzzfeed is hiring for 89 positions as of June 21, a dramatic increase from this time last year, when the company had exactly 2 positions available.
Despite the increase in job listings, our data shows that the site’s page views have been steadily decreasing over the past four years. Currently Buzzfeed has 54 weekly page views per million, a far cry from the all-time high of 424.4 on July 17, 2017.
Between the ever-elusive profitability and the HuffPost acquisition, 2020 was a year of improvements for Buzzfeed. A deal with 890 and Complex Networks could arrive soon, but it’s still unclear when Buzzfeed’s public debut would occur.