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June 29, 2016, 11:18 a.m.
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LINK: www.theglobeandmail.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   June 29, 2016

When I talk to my friends in Canadian media, they often say something like: We’re two years behind the U.S. (Or three years, or four years — the exact length varies.) What they mean is that Canadian news companies (newspapers most prominently) didn’t see quite the same pace of decline their American counterparts did in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and they’re making up for lost time now.

For anyone seeking evidence on that point, Tuesday afternoon offered a couple data points. BuzzFeed, which launched its Canadian operation a little over a year ago, closed its Ottawa bureau and announced it would be making its Canadian content a little less Canadian. And Global, one of the nation’s major TV networks, canceled its premier investigative program, 16×9.

The BuzzFeed news got a little attention stateside and would seem to indicate content designed specifically the Canadian market wasn’t proving worth the investment of staff. BuzzFeed now has international editions across five continents, but most of those are in non-English languages (Japanese, German, French, Spanish, etc.). Canada’s potential target audience (a total English-speaking population of about 28 million) apparently isn’t big enough to devote major resources to English-language-but-Canada-specific news and content development. (In other words, it’s the same old Canadian media story: the outsized influence of that big neighbor to the south.)

BuzzFeed’s pursestrings have been tightening a bit, but the move makes me wonder a bit about other U.S. ventures north (like The Huffington Post Canada) and BuzzFeed’s other anglophone international editions (most notably Australia).

The Global news, while perhaps less interesting to Americans, is probably a bigger deal in Canada, with around 10 staffers laid off. Global has a new owner, Corus Entertainment, and it’s looking for costs to cut (though it says it will create some sort of new investigative unit at some point). As commenter at The Globe and Mail put it: “Sure, Corus, get rid of a good program, and leave the US crap on.” The still-memetastic Trudeau government is committed to putting more funding into the CBC, so private TV networks will soon be facing a more vibrant state-funded competitor.

Here’s the full memo from BuzzFeed’s Scott Lamb, who oversees editorial for the site’s international growth (emphases mine):

Hi everyone,

We have some news to share about a shift in what our team in Toronto will be doing, and the alignment of our editorial teams and English-language content flow around the world.

Since opening our Toronto office just over one year ago, we’ve learned a lot about our loyal Canadian audience, their online habits and the types of content they love. In line with our long-standing philosophy to test, learn and adapt, next week we’ll be making changes that will allow us to continue delivering great content to our Canadian readers while also making the best use of our content and resources around the globe.

We’ve decided to more closely align the efforts of our Toronto-based writers with our editorial team in New York, updating their reporting lines and opening up their editorial scope so they’re free to cover the topics that appeal to them from anywhere in the world, in addition to Canadian-centric content. Like other English-language international editions of BuzzFeed, the team will feed into our global content pipeline, meaning more opportunity for their posts to live on other English-language editions of BuzzFeed, and an increased likelihood they’ll be translated for other editions around the world.

Craig Silverman, BuzzFeed Canada’s fearless founding editor and office Internet Dad, will continue to lead the news and buzz teams in Toronto. He’ll also be launching a new beat for BuzzFeed at large, bringing his deep expertise at debunking hoaxes (like this one) to our reporting arsenal and acting as a resource for all BuzzFeed editions, as well as a watchdog on behalf of our readers worldwide.

BuzzFeed Canada team members will have new reporting lines into Editorial leads in New York. Beginning next week the Buzz team will report into Tommy Wesley under the guidance of Tanya Chen, who will be now be (officially!) based in New York, and Social News will be working with Steph McNeal and her team.

With the 2015 Canadian federal election behind us, we are wrapping up our Canadian political coverage and Paul McLeod will be moving to Washington, D.C. to cover Capitol Hill. Emma Loop is currently considering her options, including an offer to relocate to D.C. and join the team there as well. Their contributions have been significant, and it is our sincere hope we will be able to keep them both at BuzzFeed.

The BuzzFeed Canada brand isn’t going away — we’ll continue to publish Canadian-centric news and entertainment on both our Canada homepage and social feeds. We have a strong business with Canadian partners, and our Toronto sales team will continue collaborating with local brands on innovative native advertising campaigns from there. We’re proud of all the team has achieved thus far and excited to see what they’ll do as they step into their new roles and remits.

Please join me in congratulating them.

Photo by Samuel Augusts used under a Creative Commons license.

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