BuzzFeed’s European general manager Kate Burns is out

Kate burns buzzfeed
Kate Burns BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed’s European general manager Kate Burns has left the digital media publisher a little over a year after she joined the company.

Quite why Burns left the company is not yet clear.

A spokesperson for BuzzFeed said it was Burns’ decision to leave. The search is on for her replacement.

In a statement, BuzzFeed said: “Over the last year, Kate has been an integral part of stabilizing and growing our business in the UK and Europe. We are grateful for the leadership role she has played and wish her the very best in the future.”

Burns sent Business Insider this statement: “The European business is doing exceptionally well thanks to the incredible job my team have done in the last year. I know they will go from strength to strength. I am very sad to leave, and I wish them all the best, and I will miss them very much.”

There are competing theories swirling around the context of her departure:

  • Sources close to the company told Business Insider Burns had a difficult relationship with BuzzFeed management. One of those sources said she was not given much autonomy from BuzzFeed HQ in the US to run the region in her own style.
  • Two sources close to the company suggested she left after BuzzFeed’s European business repeatedly missed quarterly revenue targets.
  • However, another source said this was categorically untrue and BuzzFeed Europe had in fact “doubled” revenue in the past year and is on track to do the same in 2016. That source declined to share actual revenue figures, though. Last September, Burns told Business Insider that BuzzFeed Europe had already pulled in “three to four significant programs worth more than £1 million,” referring to upfront advertising deals the company had struck with media agencies.

BuzzFeed has not ever publicly released its European revenues.

Documents leaked to the Financial Times earlier this month suggested that globally, BuzzFeed had cut its 2016 revenue targets in half from $500 million to $250 million, having missed its $250 million revenue target for 2015 by $80 million.

However, BuzzFeed chairman Ken Lerer dismissed the report saying: “Anyone who thinks that this isn’t a terrific time to be in digital content is dead wrong, it’s a fantastic time,” according to Re/code. A source close to BuzzFeed also said there were some factual inaccuracies in the Financial Times report.

BuzzFeed has a $1.5 billion valuation, having raised almost $246 million in funding from investors including NBCUniversal, Hearst Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Burns is a European internet advertising veteran. Back in 2001, she was the first international hire at Google, joining as its UK managing director. She was promoted to become the company’s regional director for UK, Ireland, and Benelux.

In 2008 she became UK and Europe managing director at video site Dailymotion. After less than a year there she joined social network Bebo as its vice president and managing director for Europe.

In 2009 she left to become AOL’s European VP of sales and was promoted in 2010 to the role of CEO and SVP of AOL Europe.

She had brief stints at ad tech companies Drawbridge and Shift, holding European VP roles at both companies, before joining BuzzFeed in March 2015.

Burns told Business Insider in September last year she joined BuzzFeed after she “basically stalked” the company’s president Greg Coleman on LinkedIn, after she heard he had joined the company from public ad tech company Criteo in 2014. Having “ignored” her at first, they eventually went for lunch and she was hired 10 days later.

BuzzFeed has European editions in the UK, France, Germany, and Spain. BuzzFeed has consistently pulled in around 15 million monthly unique visitors in the UK, according to Quantcast data.


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