BuzzFeed is facing its biggest test as the coronavirus squeezes media


Hello and welcome to this week’s Advertising & Media Insider newsletter, where we spotlight the week’s top ad and media stories. I’m Lucia Moses, deputy editor here.

Digital media faces a moment of truth

jonah peretti

This past week I did some reporting on BuzzFeed’s fate coming out of the pandemic. A lot of people are fascinated by BuzzFeed, for good reason — it was one of the first digital media companies to raise outsized amounts of funding, and from a legacy media company, in this case, NBCUniversal. It built a massive audience with quizzes and lists and by leveraging the dark arts of social media.

But BuzzFeed’s story is also the story of a lot of digital media companies like Group Nine and Vox Media that were straining for profitability before the pandemic. The question of whether their content is truly essential is even more urgent as people struggle to maintain their health, livelihood, and sanity under lockdown.

BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti saw around the corner earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic began to strike the US. He was an early mover in mandating that employees work remotely and cut pay, a common lever used to avoid demoralizing and disruptive layoffs. 

But even the smartest entrepreneurs can’t foresee everything, and BuzzFeed may still pay for decisions Peretti made years earlier when the company leaned too much on Facebook and built a newsroom that’s won prestigious awards but hasn’t convinced readers it’s worth paying for.

Read the rest of the story here: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti faces his toughest leadership test ever as coronavirus slams his already-injured digital media company

Fast food is a tale of two cities

Chipotle Walkup Window

Fast food might seem like a terrible business to be in now with people hunkering down at home, and, if my Twitter feed is any indication, all discovering their inner baker.

But some like Domino’s and Chipotle are thriving because they invested in home delivery and pickup early and shifted their marketing messages accordingly, my colleagues Patrick Coffee and Tanya Dua reported.

With the eating out habit unlikely to return soon, those moves are likely to pay dividends for months if not years to come.

Read their full story here: Fast food chains like Subway and Burger King have been hard-hit by the coronavirus, with some slashing ad spend by as much as 50%. Here’s how they’ve adapted their marketing.

What’s next for ad agencies

Harris Diamond

Agencies has been hammered by the pandemic as marketers slash spending.

Patrick talked to McCann’s Harris Diamond about issues on the minds of many CEOs. Excerpts:

  • Agencies will deprioritize office space and amenities and emphasize infrastructure and legal services.
  • Human resources is needed more than ever as the agency tries to minimize layoffs by re-training and moving employees
  • The ad industry will continue to participate in fewer awards shows and events and reevaluate its trade association memberships.

Read the rest of his interview here: The CEO of McCann Worldgroup, one of the world’s biggest ad agencies, says the coronavirus will change everything from real estate to awards shows

In related news: The pandemic set back Edelman’s goal to hit $1 billion in revenue this year. Here’s how the PR giant plans to rebound.

Huge companies scored millions in stimulus loans, but small ad agencies say they’ve struggled to get help as jobs hang in the balance

Here are other great reads from media and advertising:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk is charging up to $250,000 to help companies shake up their ecommerce operations. Here’s the pitch deck.
  • $1 billion startup Rent the Runway has furloughed 35% of its employees. Its future is now in question as coronavirus ravages retail.
  • Ad spending data reveals how streaming TV services like Netflix and Disney are changing their marketing tactics
  • The absence of live sports is pummeling TV networks. Here’s how ESPN is working around it
  • A media company explains how it’s gotten attention on TikTok with music, employee personalities, and lo-fi production
  • JPMorgan Chase just named a new chief media officer. She reveals how the company built a scorecard to assess its ads during the coronavirus and is adjusting its $5 billion marketing budget.
  • A new survey of 1,021 Instagram influencers shows how the social-media platform has changed in recent weeks and what areas they’re leaning into
  • Amazon just made a big hire from ad agency Dentsu to help it take share of the $70 billion TV-advertising business
  • Digital ad firm GumGum just raised $22 million, and now it’s laying off 25% of its staff

Bye for now. Stay safe, and as always, if you’re new to this email, sign up for your own and share it with others by clicking here.

SEE ALSO: Quibi just lost another high-profile exec a few weeks after launching. Here are the 13 power players who bet on the startup’s vision of changing mobile video still there.

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