On Thursday, every week after BuzzFeed closed its Pulitzer Prize-winning information division and laid off 15 % of its employees, Jonah Peretti, the corporate’s chief government, predicted in a memo to his remaining workers that the way forward for the media enterprise lay in “huge cultural moments” and “fun.”
Things that sow division will exit of favor, he wrote. Social media will not drive site visitors to web sites. The algorithm that dictates on-line searches will favor feel-good leisure in “a huge reversal from the social media landscape of the 2010s” and its reliance on “content that fosters toxicity,” as Axios reported in its description of Mr. Peretti’s memo.
Mr. Peretti has been mistaken earlier than, as evidenced by the cratering of BuzzFeed’s inventory because the firm went public in 2021. But his view that the enterprise is heading towards a post-revolutionary interval of restoration wouldn’t have appeared off-base to anybody who witnessed two very totally different media events in Manhattan this week: the Time 100 Gala at One Columbus Circle and a e book celebration hosted by the digital-news maven Ben Smith at a downtown restaurant.
More than 300 properly turned out company descended on Columbus Circle on Wednesday night time for the celebration thrown by maybe the legaciest of all legacy media manufacturers, Time journal. The flock included stars of latest streaming hits (Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Ali Wong, Natasha Lyonne) as effectively as, for a little bit of usually Time gravitas, the NASA astronomer Ed Reynolds and the chief director of the American Library Association, Tracie D. Hall.
The night’s greatest star may need been Marc Benioff, the Silicon Valley billionaire who, together with his spouse, Lynne, purchased Time for $190 million from the Meredith Corporation in 2018. It is probably going that there would have been no Time 100 celebration, and maybe no Time, if he had not swooped in to take possession of the publication that was the pre-eminent newsweekly when newsweeklies had been nonetheless a factor.
On Mr. Benioff’s watch, Time has struck partnership offers with streaming platforms for documentaries and ramped up its occasions enterprise. The Time 100 celebration that was as soon as an extension of the model has arguably develop into its centerpiece. This 12 months’s bash was a part of a weeklong convention, the Time 100 Summit, that included onstage talks with Steven Spielberg; Kim Kardashian; the previous House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu; and the W.N.B.A. star Nneka Ogwumike.
“Isn’t this fun,” the bearded Mr. Benioff mentioned as celebrities streamed into the sixteenth ground at One Columbus Circle — a dual-tower constructing that was known as the Time Warner Center upon its opening in 2004 and that now goes by Deutsche Bank Center.
Mr. Benioff, 58, made a lot of his fortune within the software program enterprise, as the chief of Salesforce. Now he’s a part of a topsy-turvy enterprise that, within the days main as much as the soiree, handed via a interval of volatility marked by the suspension of operations of Paper Magazine, a fizzy chronicler of New York’s downtown scene; the firings of Tucker Carlson at Fox News, Don Lemon at CNN and Jeff Shell at NBC; and the choice by Fox News to pay its method out of a defamation swimsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems with $787.5 million.
Mr. Benioff disregarded a reporter’s query about all that, saying, “Let’s ignore the other stuff.”
Time printed its first record of the world’s 100 most influential folks in 2004 and shortly seized on it as a chance to generate publicity via an annual tie-in celebration crammed with celeb company. (Think: Met Gala, with nerds.) This 12 months’s bash was filmed as a particular for ABC.
As Mr. Benioff settled in for the night, Ms. Kardashian ambled by in a cream-colored John Galliano robe. On the pink carpet down the corridor stood Mr. Lemon, who had misplaced his job two days earlier, partly due to misogynistic feedback he had made on the air. Unemployed however unbowed, he gave interviews to Access Hollywood, E! and Page Six TV.
Many of Mr. Lemon’s statements from the anchor desk had been confounding, however there was one thing shrewd and of the second about his resolution to not lie low after taking a success.
“People keep asking me if I’m OK,” Mr. Lemon mentioned. “I come from tough Louisiana stock. I’m fine.” He added that he was wanting ahead to spending the summer season on the seaside.
Nicki Cox, a reporter for the Page Six column in The New York Post, stood off to the facet, head tilted. Even this gossip author appeared puzzled by the notion that an individual who had been within the information for all of the mistaken causes would present up on a pink carpet as if nothing had occurred. “When I saw him,” Ms. Cox mentioned, “I actually thought there was something wrong with my eyes.”
The CNN chairman Chris Licht, who was largely liable for the firing of Mr. Lemon, stood close by, within the cocktail space, with Ms. Coolidge and the actress Tiffany Haddish. Soon the company moved to their tables inside a tiered banquet corridor. Waiters served pink wine and a salad that seemed as if it had been put collectively by a panorama architect.
Cameras hovered as Ms. Coolidge — within the position of M.C. — made self-deprecating jokes about how unusual it was to be honored alongside local weather scientists who’re “calculating exactly how long it will take us to die.” She was referring to Britney Schmidt and Peter Davis, who’ve studied the injury carried out to the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica.
Another Time 100 honoree, Doja Cat, a singer and rapper who gained a document deal after coming to prominence via a viral TikTok video, carried out her songs “Woman” and “Say So.” Because the occasion was as a lot a TV manufacturing as a celebration, she was requested to redo the second track due to a technical glitch.
Toasts had been made to the actress Angela Bassett and to Ms. Hall, the primary Black lady to go the American Library Association. Mr. Spielberg spoke from the stage concerning the significance of journalism. “We need the news as much as we need food, water and air,” he mentioned, earlier than praising Time for retaining its sense of mission whereas adapting to a altering tradition.
With the backing of a billionaire, Time can afford to attend out a difficult interval within the journalism enterprise, in accordance with the journalist Kara Swisher. “It’ll stand as long as he wants it,” she mentioned on the celebration. Chief executives of publicly traded media corporations — like Mr. Peretti at BuzzFeed — don’t have any such luxurious.
The ups and downs (particularly the downs) of the enterprise had been a essential matter of dialog at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, the location of the Thursday night time e book celebration for Mr. Smith, who spent eight years as the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News earlier than leaving for a two-year stint as the media columnist at The New York Times.
The restaurant was packed. Waiters served meatballs and different hors d’oeuvres. Former colleagues of Mr. Smith’s had been stacked on the bar. It appeared that everybody current had been personally affected by the vicissitudes of the digital-news economic system.
“What we were spending our money on was journalism,” mentioned Ellen Cushing, an editor who labored at Buzzfeed from 2015 to 2018 and now plies her commerce at The Atlantic, a publication whose majority proprietor is the Emerson Collective, a corporation based by the billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs. “Now it seems naïve,” Ms. Cushing continued, “but I’m glad we did it.”
Mr. Smith’s e book, “Traffic,” supplies an insider’s account of the 2010s race between BuzzFeed and Gawker Media whereas making the case that the net ethos that got here into being in digital media’s early years has formed a lot of up to date tradition, for higher and for worse.
Mr. Smith, 46, mentioned he accomplished “Traffic” final summer season, when BuzzFeed News was on life-support. In the ultimate chapter, he attributed its downfall to how “elusive and expensive” it was to draw and keep a strong viewers, significantly when the identical social media websites that delivered readers to BuzzFeed had been slicing deeply into advert income.
It wasn’t misplaced on Mr. Smith that the restaurant gathering, a form of coming-out celebration for him as an writer, got here every week after Mr. Peretti pulled the plug on BuzzFeed News.
“It is weird timing,” Mr. Smith mentioned.
Jessica Coen, who was previously the highest editor of Gawker and certainly one of its spin off websites, Jezebel, stood by the bar. “I don’t know what the new model is,” she mentioned when requested to evaluate the media enterprise. “TikTok?” She was kidding. Sort of.
In walked Arianna Huffington, who began The Huffington Post in 2005. Not lengthy after it started, Mr. Peretti, certainly one of her fellow founders, began working in his spare time on an experiment in viral media that might develop into BuzzFeed. Once the location gained traction with readers, it put a scare in established media retailers.
In 2011, Mr. Smith, then a reporter at Politico, got here aboard as the founding editor of BuzzFeed’s newly created information division. He stayed till 2020, when he joined The Times. He returned to the start-up world final 12 months with Semafor, a digital information website that he based with the media government Justin Smith.
BuzzFeed News gained a Pulitzer Prize in worldwide reporting after Mr. Smith’s departure from the location. But it was going through stiff headwinds, and his successor as editor in chief, Mark Schoofs, stepped down final 12 months, as did two different prime editors. In advance of going public, BuzzFeed acquired HuffPost (as the location was renamed) from Verizon Media. Since then, Ms. Huffington mentioned on the e book celebration, BuzzFeed News had develop into much less of a journalistic pressure. And now it’s gone.
Although he had opined on the media trade in his columns for The Times and had written a e book on the latest historical past of digital information, Mr. Smith sounded removed from cocky on Thursday night time when requested to foretell the following huge development in his chosen discipline.
“I’m just a reporter,” he mentioned. “I don’t see the future.”
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