For Digital Publishers, Ad-Supported News Remains an Unsolved Puzzle

The closure of BuzzFeed News casts further doubt on the model

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On Thursday, in announcing the closure of BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed chief executive Jonah Peretti concluded one of the most highly visible experiments in ad-supported digital newsgathering of the last two decades.

The ambitious newsroom, which launched in 2011, sought not only to legitimize the reputation of BuzzFeed itself but to prove that an esteemed news operation could run almost entirely on the dime of digital advertising.

The theory ran counter to decades of accrued wisdom: Both on television and in print, news has always been a loss leader, subsidized by other sectors but prized for its ability to attract attention and add reputational sheen, said Jon Miller, chief executive of digital media investment firm Integrated Media Co.

Still, even as other news publishers gradually erected paywalls and moved their most valuable content behind them, BuzzFeed News remained insistent that its reporting would remain free to access. 


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