BuzzFeed Goes Bust
A 2010s success story is nearly no more
Is this the year BuzzFeed goes bankrupt?
The digital media company, once touted as the great and shining future of all media, may soon collapse under the weight of its $150 million debt. Loans were taken on to fund the purchase of Complex, a site for sneakerheads and rap aficionados. BuzzFeed’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, bought Complex because he wanted BuzzFeed to have a larger valuation when it finally went public through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC. SPACs, which came and went around 2021, were thought of as an easy way, through IPO-like mergers, to achieve billion-dollar valuations and dodge, as much as possible, financial regulators.
Naturally, none of this went well. BuzzFeed’s cash reserves are nearly gone. Its stock price has lost 98 percent of its value. Investors are fleeing. The bills have come due from the hedge funds that pumped BuzzFeed up several years ago. To survive, Buzzfeed will, at the very minimum, have to sell off assets like Complex. Its news division, once quite good, is already dead. Peretti could take the company private again or let it eventually be consumed by a private equity giant. Filing for bankruptcy protection is another possibility.
No matter what happens, BuzzFeed will not grow again. It was, a decade ago, a hybrid macrocultural and microcultural success story, playing on the terrain of the New York Times while firmly entrenching itself in the digital future. As a millenial, I will always find BuzzFeed’s rise and fall particularly fascinating, emblematic of an age that was both exciting and disastrous—an age I hope, for a variety of reasons, does not recur.
It all started with a rather simple idea: get big on the internet, and the money would somehow follow.