HuffPo and Upworthy Downsize as They Refocus on Video

January 8, 2016, 10:25 PM UTC
AOL Buys Huffington Post For $315 Million To Rekindle Ad-Revenue Growth
Tim Armstrong, chief executive officer of AOL Inc., left, and Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, stand for a photograph at AOL's headquarters in New York, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. AOL Inc. agreed to buy the Huffington Post for $315 million as the internet company spun off from Time Warner Inc. increases its investments in online content to help revive growth in advertising revenue. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Jin Lee — Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the world of online and mobile video continues to fragment, the shifting landscape is requiring media companies to be more nimble to keep up. That has led to a series of layoffs and restructurings at several media outlets, including The Huffington Post and Upworthy.

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, whose company is owned by AOL (which was itself acquired by Verizon last year), sent out a memo to employees on Friday saying the company is shifting its approach to video.

The site’s TV-style video operation, HuffPost Live, is being downsized and rolled into a single central video unit, along with the video units of HuffPost News, HuffPost Originals and HuffPost Rise, an online morning-news show. Both CNN and Politico reported that there were layoffs involved, but those reports remain unconfirmed.

In her memo, Huffington said that the company would focus on both long-form documentaries and series-style shows, as well as “snackable” video content for Facebook (FB) and other social platforms. HuffPost Live isn’t going away, but will no longer do live video all day long. According to the memo:

“Instead of creating shareable videos by doing 8 hours of live video every day, we will be creating videos to be shared directly on an ever-growing range of platforms. And we’ll go live when warranted, for big political and cultural events, and newsmaker and celebrity interviews.”

Six months ago, Huffington Post announced that it was doubling down on video and would be hiring staff for a 24-hour CNN-style news channel called HuffPost 24. That was to be the flagship of a new unit called HuffPost Studios, which would do TV content as well as producing and licensing full-length movies.

WATCH: T-Mobile adds free video streaming

It’s not clear what the latest announcement means for those plans. Attempts to reach Ms. Huffington for comment were unsuccessful. When the 24-hour news comments were made, she said that she wanted the site to be 50% video content.

Huffington Post isn’t the only one cutting back and trying to refocus on video. Upworthy, the “viral content” outlet that has been through at least one significant pivot recently, said Friday that it is laying off almost 15% of its staff, or 14 out of a total of 97 employees.

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser described the cutbacks as being an “investment layoff” that was required by the company in order to concentrate on expanding its original video operations. The site’s video team is currently 10 people, but Pariser said that it has seen video views as high as 167 million in December.

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“It’s about us looking at our team and looking at our strategy and making this hard decision that we need to move resources to support the growth of video,” Pariser told Politico. “As excited as I am about what the future of video holds for us, it means moving money dollar-for-dollar from other departments.”

Other sites such as BuzzFeed and Vice Media have also been investing heavily in video. And while Upworthy is no doubt proud of its 167 million views, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures said last year that it had more than one billion video views in a single month.

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