Commentary

BuzzFeed's Plan To Restore Worker Pay Is A Good Sign

Digital publisher BuzzFeed will restore full salaries on Sept. 16, and also plans to end the workshare arrangement at BuzzFeed News. The move is a good sign for the company and perhaps the broader industry after months of grinding through the coronavirus pandemic.

Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti this week announced plans to end the temporary arrangements that had been in effect since April, a BuzzFeed spokesperson confirmed by email. Management also planned to meet with the union representing workers at BuzzFeed News, the publisher's investigative journalism unit, about ending the workshare program that began in May.

BuzzFeed in March had said it would trim salaries by 5% to 10% for staff and 14% to 25% for executives. As part of the plan to avoid job cuts, Peretti stopped collecting any salary.  

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Unfortunately, business conditions didn't bounce back as quickly as hoped, and the company implemented more cost-cutting measures in May. BuzzFeed furloughed dozens of employees, and said pay cuts would be extended for the remainder of the year, CNN Business reported.

BuzzFeed wasn't the only publisher to cut costs as media spending dried up. Condé Nast, the Economist Group, Vice Media, Quartzand Tribune Publishing also announced layoffs or furloughs.

BuzzFeed's change in plans may be a sign the industry is turning a corner, though the outlook is still mixed. Media buyers at advertisers and agencies plan to increase their spending on digital display ads by 15% this year, along with an 18% gain in digital video, the Interactive Advertising Bureau found in a survey.

Those estimates are positive for publishers' digital properties, especially since media buyers planned to cut print budgets by one-third. That decrease isn't surprising amid the multiyear shift of ad dollars out of print and into digital media.

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