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Jonah Peretti. Photo by Bloomberg.

BuzzFeed’s Stock Plunge Has Gone (a Little) Too Far

Photo: Jonah Peretti. Photo by Bloomberg.

This has to be a tough time to be Jonah Peretti. The BuzzFeed CEO’s reputation as a media visionary is looking more than a little battered since the public listing of his digital media firm. No one would enjoy watching their stock drop 54% in five weeks—but it must be worse for Peretti, a high-profile executive whose company’s public debut was heavily anticipated by colleagues in the industry. How he must miss the halcyon days of 2016 when the investment geniuses at NBCUniversal decided to put money into the company at a valuation of $1.7 billion. 

At today’s close of $4.39 a share—the lowest closing level so far—BuzzFeed has a market capitalization of $579 million. That’s barely more than what The New York Times is paying for The Athletic, which not only loses lots of money (BuzzFeed makes money, at least on an Ebitda basis) but generates about one-sixth the revenue of Peretti’s company. Then again, The Athletic is a subscription business, which theoretically means its revenues should be more reliable than those of an advertising business. Peretti isn’t a fan of the subscription business, having argued that paywalled news is bad for democracy. (People always had to pay for newspapers—in the prehistoric pre-Internet days—so that argument always seemed a little misguided to me.)

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