Once the deal goes through, BuzzFeed will have to find ways to cut costs, the two people said. Mr. Peretti’s company was on track to turn a profit this year, but the addition of HuffPost will add more costs starting next year. The deal includes some cash from Verizon that will help BuzzFeed pay for severance for possible layoffs and other costs associated with the merger, the two people said.
Both outlets share DNA. Along with the political power player Arianna Huffington and the investor Kenneth Lerer, Mr. Peretti was part of the team that created the original Huffington Post, as it was then known, in 2005. The driving idea was to build a liberal version of Drudge Report — an online gathering spot for readers fed up with the George W. Bush administration.
The site benefited from Ms. Huffington’s Rolodex, back when Rolodexes were still a thing: She was able to charm big-name contributors from Hollywood and the Beltway to write for free. Steeped in the Google algorithm, Mr. Peretti, the site’s chief technology officer, along with its editors, helped make Huffington Post into an online force, one that featured a new brand of journalism — unapologetically web-native, complete with slide shows, hot-take opinion pieces and curiosity-inducing headlines — that drew millions of clicks in the years before Twitter and other social media platforms took charge of the internet discourse.
In 2006, Mr. Peretti, a scientist of the web with a perennial interest in which pieces of online content proved most engaging to readers, started BuzzFeed while he was still HuffPost’s chief technology officer. At first, it was an experimental project that he ran out of a small office in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Mr. Peretti left HuffPost in 2011, after it was sold to AOL for $315 million, and with the help of $35 million from corporate investors, he transformed his side gig into a stand-alone media company.
BuzzFeed caught on as a website filled with features aimed at a largely millennial audience, things like “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” and a video of BuzzFeeders trying to make a watermelon explode. As the site matured, it went deep into current-events coverage and investigative articles under 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, and is now run by Mark Schoofs.
But struggles lay ahead.
In 2017, BuzzFeed cut 100 employees after missing revenue targets. Last year, it laid off more than 220 employees, or 15 percent of its work force. Amid the cost-cutting measures, BuzzFeed added banner ads, a form of advertising it once eschewed. It even expanded into the retail business, with branded products, including a recent partnership to create sex toys.
HuffPost cut 39 employees during a round of layoffs in 2017. In early 2019, Verizon said it would cut 800 positions, or 7 percent of its media divisions. Later that year, HuffPost let 11 video employees go.