BuzzFeed will reduce pay for most staffers, freelancers, executives, and CEO Jonah Peretti in an attempt to prevent layoffs due to the financial toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on the company.
“I understand this will be a real hardship for everyone, but our goal is to make it possible for all of us to get through this,” Peretti wrote in a staff memo obtained by Variety.
He said that he will “not be taking a salary until we are on the other side of this.” His pay reduction is the most drastic. Other reductions are being implemented on a sliding scale. Employees who make between $40,000 and $64,999 will see a 5% cut; those who make $65,000-$89,999 will see a 7% cut; $90,000-$124,999, a 9% cut; $125,000-$169,999, an 11% cut; $170,000-$224,999, a 12% cut; and $225,000 and up, a 13% cut.
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Peretti added that BuzzFeed’s most senior executives will take cuts of 14% to 25%. All freelancers and contractors, regardless of amount earned, will have their rates cut by 8%.
These cuts have not yet been agreed to by the NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents BuzzFeed News staffers. In his memo, Peretti said BuzzFeed executives will meet with union reps to “share this plan and invite them to participate in this or to propose a new plan that meets the same savings goals.”
In their own statement, the BuzzFeed News Union wrote, “While this obviously isn’t ideal for anyone, we’re glad the company is taking a proactive approach and pursuing options to cut costs that don’t result in job losses.”
Our statement on BuzzFeed’s plans to reduce employee salaries. pic.twitter.com/krufCAalYo
— BuzzFeed News Union ✊ (@bfnewsunion) March 25, 2020
BuzzFeed has around 1,450 employees after cutting staff by 15% in January 2019. It’s headquartered in New York City and has 18 offices around the world, including London, Sydney, Sao Paolo, and Tokyo.
Peretti’s memo made it clear BuzzFeed has lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t know how long this will last, but we want to move quickly to make sure our business remains sustainable,” he said. He added that BuzzFeed will “lift the program and reevaluate if things improve.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant economic stress around the world, impacting virtually all industries, including digital advertising. BuzzFeed’s news content, lifestyle content, and video business all earn revenue through digital ads–and considering Google and Facebook are projected to take a combined $44 billion loss in ad revenue due to the pandemic, it’s not hard to imagine the effects coronavirus might be having on BuzzFeed’s income.