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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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Is this X’s (formerly Twitter) final goodbye to big advertisers? It looks like it



Is this X's (formerly Twitter) final goodbye to big advertisers? It looks like it

It looks like big advertisers are leaving X (formerly Twitter) for good and its owner Elon Musk couldn’t care less.

In the packed DealBook conference in New York on Wednesday, he bluntly told them to shove it. 

This response came after another round of advertisers including IBM, Apple, CNN and Disney bailed on his social network after Musk seemingly supported an antisemitic conspiracy theory last month by responding to an X user’s post — a move he’s since admitted was silly and apologized for. Musk was less remorseful over the uproar caused among advertisers, telling the room: “This advertising boycott is going to kill the company… let’s see how Earth responds to that.”

For many large marketers, this marks the end of a drawn-out farewell (lasting a whopping 13 months) to advertising on X since Musk took over. Surprisingly, even some of X’s own staff members are now calling it quits. Freelance journalist Claire Atkinson reported a “wave of resignations” from CEO Linda Yaccarino’s sales team, including a few of the remaining ad executives who were there before she officially joined in June. Musk’s actions are essentially reversing any recent progress made in reviving X’s advertising business.

Lou Paskalis, CEO and founder of AJL Advisory confirmed that Musk’s comments were indeed another extra nail in the already well sealed coffin because it reaffirmed what most large advertisers already know — Musk resents having to be beholden to them.

“He is trying to position their legitimate brand suitability concerns, largely precipitated by his ongoing antics on X, as a vast, left-wing conspiracy among advertisers to ‘blackmail’ him into constraining his right to free speech,” Paskalis said. “As someone who spent over three decades in the ad buying business, it’s laughable to think that we could all act with that level of coordination, presumably in secret.”

This event highlights how out of touch Musk is with what keeps his company running. He takes an ad boycott as a personal insult when, truthfully, it’s just part and parcel of managing a platform these days. Look at how often YouTube and Meta have dealt with similar issues over the years. The difference? The bigwigs at those companies prioritized protecting their businesses, not their public personas, and were willing to make compromises to win back advertisers. Not that it took much to win back those ad dollars — advertisers rely on those platforms as much as the platforms rely on them.

“It’s just a very sensible decision not to continue advertising on that platform which poses such a strong brand safety risk,” said Ebiquity’s chief strategy officer Ruben Schreurs. “To do all this on stage is unheard of, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

The largest advertisers seem to agree. Unlike their previous boycotts of advertising on X, this one is permanent for many of them. Some of the most active accounts like Disney, Paramount, Liongsate and Sony Pictures haven’t posted in nearly two weeks. This chimes with what one senior ad exec, who had been in touch with a number of X’s advertisers over the past year, told Digiday last month. Advertisers who had continued to spend on the platform only paid a fraction of what they used to prior to Musk, out of fear of getting called out by Musk if they didn’t.

“It’s easier to pull advertising than it is to return, and what makes the X ad boycott unique is that it isn’t primarily about content adjacency or moderation,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst, social media at Insider Intelligence. “Advertisers are concerned about the reputational damage and the uncertainty of doing business with Musk, and yesterday’s comments will deepen the rift between them.”

An impossible job has now become even more challenging for Yaccarino. Ad dollars weren’t exactly flowing into the social network before Musk’s latest rant. X has averaged a 55% year-over-year revenue decline, according to Guideline. This figure increased to 61% YOY between May and August 2023 — despite Yaccarino joining the company during the summer. 

“The hill she [Yaccarino] must climb to rekindle advertiser demand for the platform just went from steep to vertical,” said Paskalis. “I don’t know how anyone could overcome a direct verbal assault of the magnitude that Musk delivered at the DealBook conference against a customer base already alarmed by his previous rage inducing, divisive and dog whistle laden tweets. None of this will cause Linda to leave, in my opinion, as she sees quitting as failure and failure is not an option in her calculus, no matter what damage may be done to her reputation.”

X did not respond to Digiday’s request for comment.

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YouTube Adds New Analytics Cards, Simplifies its ‘Product Drops’ Feature



YouTube Adds New Analytics Cards, Simplifies its ‘Product Drops’ Feature

YouTube’s making some updates to its Product Drops feature within live streams, while it’s also adding some new analytics cards, and testing a new format for its TV app.

First off, on Product Drops. YouTube’s changing the requirements for Product Drops in live streams so that more creators will be able to include drops to highlight their items.

Up till now, Product Drops have only been available to creators who’ve connected their Shopify stores, or have access to Google Merchant Center, while creators have also had to plan Product Drops in advance, and schedule them via Live Control Room. But now, YouTube’s giving more creators more ways to access the feature.

As per YouTube:

“Any creators who have connected to their first party stores, or are participating in the YouTube Affiliate Program can set up Product Drops in the live control room on YouTube. This means that more creators will be able to use Product Drops to boost sales and engagement on their live streams.”

YouTube will also now enable creators to implement Product Drops at any time during a live stream, eliminating the pre-planned requirement.

“This will give creators more flexibility to react to the moment, and drive excitement in real time.”

YouTube says that many creators have seen good response to their Product Drops, with the interactive, engaging process helping to drive hype, and spark more response from viewers.

Product Drops are available via the Live Control Room in YouTube Studio. You can read more about how they work here.

YouTube’s also updating its Community Posts creation flow, in order to simplify the process, and ideally get more channels posting text-based updated in the app.

Community Posts remain a lesser element, though YouTube’s been working to make them a bigger focus throughout the year, by adding additional engagement elements like pollsquizzesdisappearing updates, and more.

Simplifying the creation process is another step in boosting awareness, and potentially driving more interaction with you YouTube audience.

YouTube’s also adding some new revenue analytics cards, including “Total Members” insights (which includes subscriber data) and “Where Members Joined From”, which will provide more insight into what’s driving channel growth.

YouTube’s also adding new data on why users have canceled their membership within the insights tab in YouTube Analytics.

YouTube analytics cards

As you can see in this example, the new card will show the reasons why people have opted to stop their subscription to your channel, based on responses provided in the cancellation flow.

Finally, YouTube’s also experimenting with a new format for its TV app, which will make it easier to access different elements.

YouTube TV app

As you can see in this example, shared by 9t05Google, the new format will include bigger buttons to access different elements, and further customize your YouTube experience on the bigger screen.

Connected TV is the fastest growing viewer segment for YouTube, with more and more people now looking to consume YouTube content on their home TV set. As such, it makes sense for YouTube to roll out more updates aligned with big screen viewing in order to feed into this usage.

Some handy updates, across various elements, which are worth noting as you go about managing your YouTube presence.

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Musk regrets controversial post but won’t bow to advertiser ‘blackmail’



Elon Musk's comments at the New York Times' Dealbook conference drew a shocked silence

Elon Musk’s comments at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference drew a shocked silence – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP Slaven Vlasic

Elon Musk apologized Wednesday for endorsing a social media post widely seen as anti-Semitic, but accused advertisers who are turning away from his social media platform X of “blackmail” and said anyone who does so can “go fuck yourself.”

The remark before corporate executives at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference drew a shocked silence.

Earlier, Musk had apologized for what he called “literally the worst and dumbest post that I’ve ever done.”

In a comment on X, formerly Twitter, Musk on November 15 called a post “the actual truth” that said Jewish communities advocated a “dialectical hatred against whites,” which was criticized as echoing longtime conspiracy theory among White supremacists.

The statement prompted a flood of departures from X of major advertisers, including Apple, Disney, Comcast and IBM who criticized Musk for anti-semitism.

“I’m sorry for that tweet or post,” Musk said Wednesday. “It was foolish of me.”

He told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin that his post had been misinterpreted and that he had sought to clarify the remark in subsequent posts to the thread.

But Musk also said he wouldn’t be beholden to pressure from advertisers.

“If somebody’s gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money?” Musk said. “Go fuck yourself.”

But the billionaire acknowledged that there were business implications to the advertiser actions.

“If the company fails… it will fail because of an advertiser boycott” Musk said. “And that will be what will bankrupt the company.”

Musk, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel earlier this week, insisted in the interview that he holds no discrimination against Jews, calling himself “philo-Semitic,” or an admirer of Judaism.

During the interview, Musk wore a necklace given to him by a parent of an Israeli hostage taken in the Hamas attack on October 7. The necklace reads, “Bring Them Home.”

Musk told Sorkin that the Israel trip had been planned earlier and was not an “apology tour” related to the controversial tweet.

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