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Why BuzzFeed Is Closing Its News Division



Why BuzzFeed Is Closing Its News Division

BuzzFeed’s decision to shut its news division — an innovator in digital journalism that published both prizewinning investigations and listicles designed to get clicks — drew many bittersweet tributes online.

But its closure is the latest reminder that digital media start-ups, which deep-pocketed investors once valued at astronomical sums, are facing headwinds. With even tech giants struggling to navigate hurdles like a declining advertising market, smaller companies are facing potentially existential crises.

“We’ve faced more challenges than I can count in the past few years,” Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and C.E.O., wrote to employees yesterday, citing the pandemic and a weak stock market. BuzzFeed and its peers have also suffered from the same drop-off in online ads that is forcing sharp job cuts at Alphabet, Meta and others. And Mr. Peretti admitted that he hadn’t focused enough on profitability.

Mr. Peretti also alluded to the disappointing market for SPACs, the blank-check funds that were briefly a popular way to take companies public. BuzzFeed used one to list on the Nasdaq in late 2021 — and ended up raising just $16 million, far short of the $250 million it could have collected.

Digital media start-ups have flailed for years. Analysts have long warned that these companies rely too much on social media to gain readers. Networks like Facebook and Google ended up keeping most of the available ad dollars, and are increasingly favoring content formats that yield less money for publishers. (Ben Smith, the former BuzzFeed News chief who now runs the start-up Semafor, wrote that his former employer wasn’t prepared for the evolution of social networks.)

BuzzFeed isn’t alone:

  • Vice may close Vice World News, which produces content for international audiences, if it can’t find a buyer for itself, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Insider, which is owned by the German media giant Axel Springer, is laying off 10 percent of its staff.

  • Vox cut 7 percent of its workers in January.

  • A revamped Gawker shut down in February, while the Springer-owned Protocol shut in November.

Will shutting BuzzFeed News be enough to save BuzzFeed? Maybe, if it means that the company has to support just one online news operation. (Mr. Peretti said he’s making HuffPost, which BuzzFeed bought in 2020, its main focus for news publishing.)

BuzzFeed’s other operations are profitable, according to The Information. But investors still appear skeptical about the company’s prospects for survival: Its shares fell 20 percent yesterday, to 75 cents, though they’ve recovered some in premarket trading.

SpaceX sees the upside in a spacecraft explosion. The rocket company’s Starship prototype was destroyed in a fireball — sorry, a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” — over the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. But engineers at SpaceX, NASA and elsewhere said the launch likely yielded useful data to improve Starship, which is meant to eventually ferry astronauts to the moon and beyond.

U.S. home sales and prices tumble. Existing-home sales fell 2.4 percent in March from the previous month and 22 percent from March 2022; more striking was a 0.9 percent year-on-year drop in the median price, the biggest such decline in 11 years. Analysts cited rising mortgage rates, and the data will weigh on the Fed as it considers whether to raise interest rates.

Meta will slow hiring and may lay off more staff. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s C.E.O., told staff members yesterday that the company had cut about 4,000 positions this week as part of a plan to lay off about a quarter of its work force. This will include closing Instagram’s London hub, less than a year after Adam Mosseri, the photo-sharing app’s boss, temporarily moved to London to build the business. He will relocate to the U.S.

Disney reportedly plans to escalate its fight against Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The company is stepping up its lobbying efforts in the state’s legislature, with a focus on land-use bills that could affect the company, according to CNBC. The move comes as Mr. DeSantis and his lawmaker allies seek to unwind Disney’s efforts to reduce state control of its theme parks.

Twitter finally began stripping users of blue check marks. The company made good on Elon Musk’s threat to remove the icons — previously meant to show that a user’s identity had been verified — from thousands of people who didn’t subscribe to the Twitter Blue service. But some celebrities, including LeBron James and Stephen King, were reportedly given “complimentary” (and unsolicited) subscriptions to Twitter Blue.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s speech on China yesterday drew attention for its conciliatory tone as much as the content of her comments: She called for a “constructive and fair” relationship with Beijing, while warning that economic decoupling would be “disastrous.”

China watchers noted the unusually calm message — but cautioned that it’s unlikely to resonate in Beijing.

Ms. Yellen sought to clarify the Biden administration’s approach. Other officials have tried to strike a tempered tone: Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, has said that competition between the two countries shouldn’t veer into conflict, while the climate envoy John Kerry has stressed that the U.S. could work with China on issues like climate change.

“China’s economic growth need not be incompatible with U.S. economic leadership,” Ms. Yellen said yesterday, so long as Beijing adhered to established international rules. She added that she planned to travel to China, which would make her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country since Joe Biden became president, in a recognition of the deep commercial links between the nations.

But Washington is sending mixed messages. The sight last month of Congressional lawmakers grilling the C.E.O. of TikTok, the video app owned by ByteDance of China, played into Beijing’s belief that the U.S. wants to hold back its economic development.

Even the Biden administration has been mostly tough on China. Just over a year ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it the most serious “long-term” threat to the global order. And Biden reportedly plans to sign an executive order soon that would limit American investment in Chinese high-tech industries.

Yellen’s comments may not be enough to assuage China. Her speech clarified U.S. policy and offers “a dose of realism about the dangers of decoupling,” said Ben Bland, the director of the Asia-Pacific program at the think tank Chatham House.

But he added that from China’s perspective, U.S.-led efforts to “curb Beijing’s access to crucial technologies and build economic and security guardrails in the relationship may still feel like an effort to keep it down.”

— Joe Kiani, the founder of Masimo, a blood-oxygen measurement start-up. Kiani is one of several technology executives who told The Wall Street Journal that Apple reached out to discuss a potential partnership, only to later roll out competing technologies.

Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse last month was called the first “Twitter-led bank run,” with many speculating that social media posts about the lender’s woes helped spark the rush of withdrawals that caused it to fail. Now, a group of finance professors has put the theory to the test — and found evidence that supports it.

Social Media as a Bank Run Catalyst,a new working paper, analyzes extensive Twitter and bank-stock data before and during the run on SVB, showing that intense chatter on the social media platform preceded a sharp share price decline and increased the risk of a bank run.

Discussion amplifies risk,” J. Anthony Cookson, an associate professor of finance at the University of Colorado Boulder and the report’s lead author, told DealBook. “SVB was a high Twitter conversation stock,” he added, as the bank had many depositors who were hyper-connected tech company founders, so they tended to be online and “very chatty.”

Coordination is a well-known element of bank runs. But the new paper suggests that social media creates more risk than the slow spread of information among personal connections. “The implication that social media matters for banking stability is potentially troubling because social platforms can spread inaccurate information, which could serve as a sunspot that leads to bank runs,” the researchers wrote.

Still, Mr. Cookson noted that study in this area is at the very early stages. “The billion dollar question,” he said, “is what do we do about this?”


  • The boutique investment bank Centerview Partners named Eric Tokat and Tony Kim as co-presidents, as the company identifies a new generation of leaders beyond its co-founders Blair Effron and Robert Pruzan. (FT)

  • Tiger Global reportedly told investors that its $12.7 billion venture fund had lost 20 percent on paper as of December, thanks to bad bets on FTX and other crypto start-ups. (The Information)

  • The Swiss government reaffirmed its $121 billion financial commitment to support UBS’s takeover of Credit Suisse, despite lawmakers’ symbolic vote to reject the move. (Reuters)


  • As part of their debt-limit plan, House Republicans want to recall billions in pandemic aid funds that Congress approved but that haven’t been spent. (NYT)

  • Canada agreed to nearly $10 billion in subsidies to convince Volkswagen to build a battery plant there instead of in the U.S., matching incentives the company would have received under the Inflation Reduction Act. (Bloomberg)

  • The Commerce Department fined the hard drive maker Seagate $300 million for continuing to supply Huawei even after the Chinese tech company was blacklisted. (CNBC)

Best of the rest

  • Lachlan Murdoch, the C.E.O. of Fox Corporation, dropped a defamation lawsuit against an Australian publisher. (NYT)

  • Several Anheuser-Busch facilities, including a Los Angeles brewery, received threats of violence amid conservative outrage over the beer giant’s partnership with a transgender influencer. (CNN Business)

  • The M.L.B.’s Oakland Athletics are leaving California for Las Vegas. (NYT)

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The best social media hacks to blow up your following in just a year



The best social media hacks to blow up your following in just a year


Get viral fast. Plus more social media hacks to grow your accounts.

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X Pitches Advertisers on Audience Reach Opportunities in ‘Q5’



X Pitches Advertisers on Audience Reach Opportunities in ‘Q5’

X is making a push to win over advertisers in the holiday season, by promoting its opportunities in “Q5”, which covers the post-Christmas to mid-January period.

As explained by X:

During [Q5], we see reduced CPMs and cost-per-conversion as consumers shop for post-holiday deals and products to support their New Year’s ambitions. Last year, X saw a 5% reduction in the average CPM and a 27% reduction in the average cost-per-conversion1.

Which could present new opportunity to reach a larger audience with your promotions, if indeed they are engaging on X over the holiday period.

“Q5 is filled with a wide variety of tent-pole moments, ranging from the holidays to sports, entertainment and more. With a surge of engagement around these conversations, your brand can remain relevant to your audiences while driving maximum ROI.

X says that, based on engagement data from last year, there are a lot of potential topics of interest for brands.

X also notes that sports video views are surging in the app, up almost 25% YoY over the past 6 months, while vertical video is also gaining momentum.

“Vertical video is the fastest growing surface on X. Over 100M people around the world are consuming vertical video daily at an average of over 13 minutes per day. On many days, vertical video accounts for around 20% of all time spent on the platform.

Though I would advise some caution in trusting these data points.

In recent months, various questions have been raised as to what X counts as a video “view” versus an impression, which is when a post is shown in-feed.

Technically, X counts video views like this:

“The main X video view metric is triggered when a user watches a video for at least 2 seconds and sees at least 50% of the video player in-view. This applies to View metrics for both uploaded videos and live broadcasts.

But that’s different to the actual view count that’s displayed on posts:

“Anyone who is logged into X who views a post counts as a view, regardless of where they see the post (e.g. Home, Search, Profiles, etc.) or whether or not they follow the author. If you’re the author, looking at your own post also counts as a view.

Even worse, X counts multiple views from the same person in that count:

“Multiple views may be counted if you view a post more than once, but not all views are unique. For example, you could look at a post on web and then on your phone, and that would count as two views.

So you can see how the public view count on video posts can massively overstate how many people actually watched a clip, which could be why X is reporting such big spikes in engagement. It just depends on which “view” metric it’s referring to here, actual views or exposure in stream.

Which makes all of these numbers a little difficult to determine, while X owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino have also continued to amplify misleading engagement stats via their own X profiles, muddying the waters as to what kind of actual reach and engagement you can expect.

And that’s before you consider the concerns that other advertisers have had with their promotions potentially being displayed alongside harmful or offensive content in the app.

But depending on how you feel about these aspects, and where your target audience is active, it could be worth considering X for your post-holiday promotions, as you look to maximize sales activity over the holiday period.

It’s also worth considering that with fewer big-name brands taking prime spots in the app, there may also be additional opportunity to reach people via X promotions.

There may be value, depending on your strategic thinking, though I would be keeping an eye on actual engagement

You can read more of X’s Q5 insights here.

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Gaza and Instagram make an explosive mix in Hollywood



Gal Gadot regularly posts demands for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

Gal Gadot regularly posts demands for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Drew Angerer

Audrey Pilon-Topkara

Hollywood celebrities are paying the price for taking sides in the Gaza war — plastering their social media accounts with slogans such as “Free Palestine” or “I stand with Israel”.

Israeli actress Gal Gadot, best known for starring in “Wonder Woman”, has expressed unyielding support for her country since October 7, when Hamas fighters burst out of Gaza, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

“I stand with Israel, you should too,” she declared to her 109 million Instagram followers.

She has continued to regularly publish or share posts demanding that Hamas release the civilians it is holding — earning her both approval and criticism.

“While you’re at it, can you use your platform to share all the missing and killed innocent Palestinians too?” a user on X, formerly Twitter, wrote in response to one of her posts.

In reprisal for the October 7 attacks, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip and launched a ground invasion, killing more than 17,000 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.

The Instagram account of American model Gigi Hadid, who is of Palestinian descent and followed by 79 million, has spent less attention on fashion in recent weeks.

She cited the “systemic mistreatment of the Palestinian people by the government of Israel”.

“Stop spreading lies. You and your sisters are antisemitic,” said one comment, with many others expressing similar views.

Famous stars can generate equally strong admiration and repulsion from the public, especially if they comment on divisive issues.

Well before social media, boxer Muhammad Ali, the actor Jane Fonda and singer Bob Dylan were adored or hated over their opposition to the Vietnam War.

More recently the actors Ben Stiller, Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn showed their support for Ukraine by visiting the country, in moves that were approved by most of their Western fans.

– Insults –

But the Israel-Palestinian issue is more divisive than most, exposing celebrities to even fiercer backlashes.

Kylie Jenner, the half-sister of socialite Kim Kardashian, shared a pro-Israeli post with her 399 million Instagram followers shortly after October 7, which according to US media she deleted an hour later after being hit with insults.

The Oscar-winning actor Susan Sarandon was dropped by her talent agency in November for comments she made at a pro-Palestinian rally, for which she later apologised.

Melissa Barrera, star of the fifth and sixth instalments of the “Scream” franchise, was cut from the cast of the seventh by the producers, who said they had “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred”.

The Mexican had denounced what she called “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza.

Celebrities who take sides in the conflict have “a lot to lose and little to gain”, said Nicolas Vanderbiest, founder of the public relations firm Saper Vedere in Brussels.

Producers and sponsors have little appetite for mixing geopolitics and business, he said.

In this issue, two “extremely organised” communities are on the lookout, creating a “herd affect”, Vanderbiest added.

Tom Cruise prevented his own agent from losing her job after she had referred to “genocide” on her Instagram account, according to the cinema trade press.

Celebrities could just stay quiet, but with this conflict there is “pressure to pronounce” and no immunity from criticism, said Jamil Jean-Marc Dakhlia, a professor of information and communication at Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris.

“Silence is seen as taking a position,” Dakhlia said. “So we are in a situation where you are forced to take sides, and not necessarily with much nuance.”

American singer and actor Selena Gomez, with 429 million Instagram followers, has been criticised for not taking a stronger stance on the issue.

Along with hundreds of others, including Hadid, singer Jennifer Lopez and actor Joaquin Phoenix, she took a middle road, signing a petition calling for a ceasefire and the safe release of hostages.

Earlier, hundreds of celebrities, including Gadot, had signed an open letter thanking US President Joe Biden for supporting “the Jewish people” and calling for the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

Very few signed both.

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