Today is D-Day at BuzzMedia. However, company CEO Stephen Hansen (pictured) wants to be very clear about something within the context of the layoff of approximately 50 employees (two thirds in New York, the other third in LA).
“One of the things I was committed to when I took over as CEO was making sure we had the capital to make the changes that would really add a lot of value,” Hansen tells FishbowlLA via telephone. “We received a tremendous amount of support from our existing investors and there is $15 million of additional capital that came into the business in the first part of 2013. We’ll be profitable in 2013, so I think we’re in really good shape.”
“For what it’s worth, there are a lot of reasons why people make hard decisions like the ones we’re making now,” he adds. “I’ve been through ups and downs, and crashes, and bubbles bursting, and all that sort of thing. The good news is that’s not the case here.”
“I’ve learned a hard lesson, which is if you have to make hard choices, make them from a position of strength. And that’s what’s we’re doing right now.”
Hansen sent out a long explanatory email to staff just before this interview and will be doing a 10:30 a.m. PT Friday in-house conference call to further address questions and concerns. He says at any one time, the top trafficked non-celebrity BuzzMedia websites vary depending on the news cycle but tend to usually include one or more of the following: Just Jared, SPIN, Idolator, Celebuzz and Egotastic.
“Celebuzz is actually one of the sites we’re focusing on investing the most in,” Hansen explains. “They’re already in beta and showing extraordinarily positive engagement and audience retention, and so you”ll’ start seeing improvements that reflect the efforts of product folks and technology folks. It’s one of our most important sites.”
“We look at Celebuzz as having a tremendous amount of latent potential, we just need to focus on it,” he adds. “We were creating a lot of editorial content [across the company], but I’m not sure it was driving higher levels of engagement. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken a hard look at the methodology around how we create editorial and map it to what our users want and expect. And I think what you’ll see is more shorter-form content as we go forward. As well as more global friendly and more video content.”
Hansen also says that he is firmly committed to the celebrity website side of BuzzMedia’s model (Kardashians et al), and that there will be announcements related to that part of the operation in the coming weeks and months. He also casts a strong vote of confidence for Celebuzz EIC Dylan Howard.
“Dylan has really stepped up, and I’ve been very, very impressed as I’ve gotten to know him,” says Hansen. “I think he’s particularly excited about the potential of Celebuzz.”
Prior to joining BuzzMedia 2012, Hansen worked as president and COO of TrueCar Inc., as a senior VP at Universal Studios and was also once the COO for GeoCities. He also founded WePlay, an online community focused on encouraging kids to pursue a healthy lifestyle, in partnership with CAA and Major League Baseball.
Previously on FishbowlLA:
Report: BuzzMedia in the Process of Laying Off 50 Staffers