BuzzFeed, Hearst, other publishers, replace lavish holiday parties with more subdued celebrations
The media holiday party may be becoming a bygone of the pre-pandemic era, as some publishers opt for alternative end-of-year affairs.
While BDG, BuzzFeed, Hearst and The Washington Post will host in-person events for employees to celebrate the close of 2022, they will not be the stereotypical soirées. Instead, they will take the form of team-specific outings, award shows and festivals. And Vox Media decided for the third consecutive year not to host a holiday party.
The return of in-person celebrations for some publishers shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. In the past year, a number of publishers have shifted to hybrid work schedules, from Hearst to The Washington Post. The world has since reached a different stage of the pandemic as well, where COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing aren’t mandatory at events to the same degree as last year. But the celebrations this year are a bit more subdued than past gatherings, which may be as much a reaction to last year’s holiday party superspreaders as a reflection of this winter’s gloomy media landscape.
BuzzFeed is taking a more sober approach to its holiday celebration this year. It isn’t having a “formal” party this year, a company spokesperson said in an email. Instead, BuzzFeed is hosting a “holiday festival” at both the New York and Los Angeles offices, with “refreshments, shopping and fun games” and a marketplace, according to a memo sent to staff and shared with Digiday. BuzzFeed is giving attendees $50 each to spend on small businesses featured at the marketplace. The company is also hosting a virtual marketplace and giving out a promo code employees can use with a curated list of small businesses.
At Hearst, teams host their own holiday celebrations. Events at the company, which is operating on a hybrid schedule, are mostly in-person this year, said Lizz Schumer, a senior editor at Good Housekeeping. Good Housekeeping did not have a holiday party last year, but this year will have one in-person, she said.
A Vox Media spokesperson declined to say why the company will not host a holiday party this year, but one Vox Media employee said there haven’t been any company holiday parties to attend since they joined in early 2020. Said the employee, “It feels pretty normal for me not to have one.”
The Washington Post hosts its annual Eugene Meyer Awards in December, which serves as its end-of-year celebration. It will return to being held in-person this year, after it was hosted virtually last year. “Now that we’ve been back in the office, with a hybrid schedule, the event is back in person this year,” said a company spokesperson in an email.
BDG isn’t making significant changes to its holiday celebrations this year either. Virtually, it’s hosting a wreath-making workshop and an ugly holiday sweater contest. As for its in-person activities, BDG is hosting a holiday mocha and cookie bar at the office, a happy hour and a holiday sale (where all proceeds will be donated to charity).
“At BDG, it is important for us to provide employees the opportunity to engage with each other and different teams outside of the typical work setting. As we close out the year, we are excited to host a mix of activities for employees to partake in, while also remaining conscious of costs and spending in this environment. When planning these events, we continue to embrace the company’s hybrid model by providing remote employees with virtual opportunities to get into the holiday spirit,” said a company spokesperson in an email.
Not really a party mood
It may be a tense — even somber — time for media employees. Many are still feeling the sting of recent layoffs, the constraint brought by hiring freezes and the pressure of cost-cutting plans as companies grapple with inflation, higher labor costs and the fear of a recession on the horizon. Not to mention some publishers that brought back in-person gatherings last year ended up hosting holiday party superspreaders. While most people have gone back to “normal” in their everyday lives, a nasty mix of viruses are spreading this winter.
It could also be a bad look for a company to host a big, celebratory bash while they are handing out pink slips. Amazon, for example, told department heads to scale back on holiday parties this year, according to reporting by Insider, as the company looks to let go about 10,000 people.
Only about a quarter of tech companies plan to have in-person holiday parties this year, according to a survey published last Friday by outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. 17% of the 252 companies surveyed cited economic conditions as a reason to hold off on celebrating. 5% of companies that had a holiday party last year won’t have one this year due to cost-cutting.
“This year’s holiday parties, it’s a little tough. If you’re [letting] people go like crazy [and say], ‘well come on in, let’s have a holiday party’ — that’s going to be a pretty grating kind of invitation. So there is an economic challenge today,” said S. Chris Edmonds, the CEO of Purposeful Culture Group, a consultancy that helps companies with their workplace cultures. However, Edmonds said the “ritual” of having an annual year-end party can help employees feel valued — and incorporating a service element, such as donating to charities or nonprofits, can help a company’s reputation.
Publishers say the competition is steeper than expected for event sponsorship dollars this year
Selling events was harder than expected for some publishers in Q2, but having a niche helped win some of the coveted sponsorship dollars.
Why some publishers are giving their AI chatbots a personality
BuzzFeed and Ingenio are hoping giving their chatbots a unique voice and tone will differentiate their AI products but others are prioritizing utility over entertainment.
Digiday+ Research: Nearly two-thirds of publishers think they will lose when the third-party cookie dies
Publishers have been busy prepping for the end of the third-party cookie, but that doesn't mean they think they'll come out on top in the post-cookie era. In fact, publishers count themselves among those who stand to lose from the end of the cookie.
SponsoredWhat the measurement and currency discussion really means to TV advertisers
Ali Mack, head of TV and agency, Experian Major streaming video providers have recently made headlines by adopting new currencies for ad measurement, threatening Nielsen’s long-standing TV ratings monopoly. NBCUniversal, for example, has certified iSpot and VideoAmp as currencies for advanced audiences and formed the Joint Industry Committee with Paramount, TelevisaUnivision and Warner Bros. Discovery. […]
Media Briefing: Publisher execs fear lack of visibility for Q3, but feel steady year over year
Publisher execs share how Q2 shook out for their businesses as they brace for an equally murky second half.
Spotify cancels six true crime podcasts amid layoffs, Gimlet-Parcast merger
Spotify is canceling six shows and laying off 200 people as it merges its Gimlet and Parcast units to push its podcast business towards profitability.