The digital media industry has increasingly sought ways to gain heft in an ad landscape dominated by Facebook and Google. In 2019, Vox Media bought New York Media, the parent of New York Magazine.
BuzzFeed Inc. is buying the HuffPost online news service from Verizon Communications Inc., marking the latest shake-up for new-media publishers.
BuzzFeed and Verizon’s media arm also agreed to syndicate each other’s content in a broader partnership, the companies said in a statement. As part of the deal, Verizon is acquiring a minority stake in BuzzFeed, which will use the telecom giant’s advertising platform to reach more customers. Specific terms weren’t disclosed.
The digital-media industry has increasingly sought ways to gain heft in an ad landscape dominated by Facebook and Google. Last year, Vox Media bought New York Media, the parent of New York Magazine, and Vice Media acquired the female-focused Refinery29.
Thursday’s deal is a reunion of sorts for BuzzFeed Chief Executive Officer Jonah Peretti, who co-founded HuffPost 15 years ago.
“I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti said in the statement.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported on the deal.
The two websites will remain independent of each other, and BuzzFeed has begun a search for a new editor-in-chief of HuffPost.
With a healthier balance sheet and more diverse revenue streams, New York-based BuzzFeed is looking to make more acquisitions, either in media or in commerce, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Verizon’s minority stake values BuzzFeed at about $1.7 billion, or roughly the same as it was in 2016, when Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal invested $200 million in the company, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
BuzzFeed, famous for its lighthearted quizzes and lists, has been trying to diversify into new lines of business, including cookware, after relying heavily on making specialized ads for brands.
The company has clawed its way back to profitability this year after the pandemic led to the cancellation of lucrative ad deals, forcing a round of layoffs and pay cuts. Earlier this month, Peretti told staff that BuzzFeed was back on solid financial footing and would restore payments to employees who took salary cuts in April.
The deal heralds yet another owner for the left-leaning HuffPost, which was co-founded in 2005 by Arianna Huffington and became a model for attracting large amounts of web traffic. AOL bought Huffington Post in 2011 for $315 million, then Verizon bought AOL in 2015, turning the site into a small piece of a telecom giant. Huffington left in 2016 to turn her attention to her wellness startup. A year later, the site shortened its name to HuffPost, underscoring the split from its namesake personality.
“HuffPost is one of the few digital content brands that is universally known, with significant scale, and a passionate, loyal audience that is different from ours,” Peretti said in a memo to employees. “That’s why we will continue to operate HuffPost as its own brand and its own digital destination.”
Verizon, meanwhile, has been seeking ways to pare down a media business that was previously led by Tim Armstrong. Under his plan, the company set out to turn a collection of dot-com brands — like AOL and Yahoo! — into a thriving online-advertising business, but the strategy never took off. After changing the name from Oath to Verizon Media Group and cutting staff, the carrier’s new CEO has focused primarily on what the company does best: wireless service.