DPS Day 1: How BuzzFeed’s Marcela Martin is helping to prepare the publisher for its next phase as a public company

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Marcela Martin joined BuzzFeed at a precarious time for all media companies, but perhaps especially for a publicly traded one that, by extension, is open to public scrutiny. Then again, in the midst of the economic downturn, now may be an advantageous time to be a publicly traded media company given the access to capital these companies can have and use to bolster their businesses via acquisitions. 

THE BUZZ FROM MARCELA MARTIN

  • “My role is to help the business grow, of course.”
  • “There is nothing like running a company smoothly.”
  • BuzzFeed is “not in a shopping spree at the moment.”
  • “We are protecting and trying to reserve cash because there is a lack of visibility with the recession and interest rates and inflation and all of what is going on.”

Eight weeks into her tenure as BuzzFeed’s president, Martin yesterday spoke during the first day of the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne, Fla., about how the media company is readying itself for its next stage after going public in December 2021. Those preparations include a strategic review process that the company is currently conducting in anticipation of presenting its plan to investors in early 2023, she said. 

“The idea is that not only do we organize ourselves for the next three years, but we aim to have an investor day dash analyst day during the first quarter of 2023 where we are going to talk a little bit more about the three-year goals that we have as a company,” Martin said on stage.

As the former CFO at Fox International Channels, National Geographic Partners, Booking.com and most recently Squarespace, Martin has the public market experience to know how to help steer a company like BuzzFeed through the present economic instability. That seems to be why the media company that has had a rough start on the stock market hired her. She knows how to sail these waters.

“My role is to help the business grow, of course; to help Jonah [Peretti, BuzzFeed’s CEO] with new initiatives and strategy; and to try as much as I can to make sure that the cross-functional departments work well, that you run processes as smoothly and as standard as you can. There is nothing like running a company smoothly,” she said.

While Martin declined to provide details about the goals in development, she acknowledged that future acquisitions for BuzzFeed may be in the cards after acquiring HuffPost and Complex Networks in 2021.

The company is “not in a shopping spree at the moment,” but it is on the lookout for potential companies that “can add to the portfolio of brands that we have with BuzzFeed, that complement our audiences. Probably companies that are small, small meaning less than $100 million [in annual revenue],” said Martin.

However, M&A is not necessarily an urgent priority for BuzzFeed. While publicly traded companies are in a potentially advantageous position for acquisitions at the moment because they have access to capital through their publicly traded stocks, “we are protecting and trying to reserve cash because there is a lack of visibility with the recession and interest rates and inflation and all of what is going on,” Martin said.

That lack of visibility — into advertiser spending and consumer spending among other economic conditions like how inflation and interest rates will trend — presents the challenge that BuzzFeed is most focusing on at the moment in order to uncover opportunities amid the crisis, Martin said. The media company is still probing for possibilities by talking to its customers, platforms and its audience, and perhaps by that investor day early next year, it will be in position to disclose them.

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