BuzzFeed to Acquire HuffPost From Verizon Media

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BuzzFeed plans to acquire HuffPost, the two companies announced on Thursday, in a deal that would join a pair of digital-media giants that have found themselves searching for readers and revenue as they have fallen prey to some of the same difficulties that once afflicted old-media newspapers and magazines.

HuffPost will become the property of its onetime rival as part of larger stock deal between Verizon Media, the owner of HuffPost, and BuzzFeed.

“We’re excited about our partnership with Verizon Media, and mutual benefits that will come from syndicating content across each other’s properties, collaborating on innovative ad products and the future of commerce, and tapping into the strength and creativity of Verizon Media Immersive,” Jonah Peretti, the BuzzFeed founder and chief executive, said in a statement. Mr. Peretti got his start in digital media at HuffPost under its founder, Arianna Huffington, back when the site was called Huffington Post.

The companies said that, as part of the arrangement, Verizon Media will become a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed.

“Verizon Media’s strategy has evolved over the past two years to focus on our core strengths — ads, commerce, content and subscriptions,” Guru Gowrappan, the Verizon Media chief executive, said in a statement. “We’ve created a powerhouse ecosystem, built on a trusted network, that delivers an end-to-end experience for consumers and advertisers. The partnership with BuzzFeed complements our road map while also accelerating our transformation and growth.”

The two websites will remain distinct from one another, each with its own editorial staff.

“The reason we were attracted to it is the brand and the audience,” Mr. Peretti said in an interview. “We want HuffPost to be more HuffPosty, and BuzzFeed to be more BuzzFeedy — there’s not much audience overlap. These are different audiences they serve. On the editorial side and the consumer side, we want to have a lot of independence and autonomy for HuffPost and for it to determine its own brand.”

Speaking again of HuffPost, Mr. Peretti added, “We are going to hire an editor in chief.” (The site’s executive editor is Hillary Frey; the previous editor in chief, from 2016 until March of this year, was Lydia Polgreen, a former New York Times editor who left HuffPost to become the head of content at the podcasting company Gimlet Media.)

The merger of BuzzFeed and HuffPost is a homecoming of sorts for both outlets. Along with Ms. Huffington and the media executive and investor Kenneth Lerer, Mr. Peretti was part of the team that created the original Huffington Post in 2005.

The next year, Mr. Peretti, a scientist of the web with a perennial interest in which pieces of online content prove most engaging to readers, started BuzzFeed as an experimental side project, working out of a small office in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

He was still the chief technology officer at Huffington Post at the time. Steeped in the Google algorithm, Mr. Peretti and the site’s editors helped engineer Huffington Post into an online force that featured a new kind of journalism — unapologetically web-native, complete with listicles, hot-take opinion pieces, slide shows and curiosity-inducing headlines — that drew clicks from millions of readers in the years before Twitter and other social media sites took charge of the internet discourse.

Mr. Peretti left HuffPost in 2011, after it was sold to AOL for $315 million, and he made his little side project into a stand-alone company, with a cheerfully branded site that housed feel-good features aimed at a largely millennial audience — including “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” and a video of BuzzFeeders trying to make a watermelon explode — with, increasingly, current-events coverage and investigative articles under the banner of BuzzFeed News, a division that was led for eight years by its founding editor, Ben Smith, before he joined The Times as its media columnist.

In a 2018 interview with The Times, Mr. Peretti, who had overseen a number of layoffs and had taken his company into the retail business, signaled that BuzzFeed could not go on in its present form, dropping huge hints that the site would be better off as part of a larger entity.

“If BuzzFeed and five of the other biggest companies were combined into a bigger digital media company,” he said at the time, “you would probably be able to get paid more money.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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