Fusion, which joined the Writers Guild of America East last week, took the brunt of the cuts. According to Fusion’s union, 15 digital editors were offered buyouts, with the majority of the layoffs coming from the business and television side. The news was not entirely surprising to those on the sales and marketing side. Months earlier, company execs had gathered for an off-site meeting to discuss how it would reorganize since parent company Univision scooped up Nick Denton’s Gawker Media in a bankruptcy auction for $135 million.
It was no secret that those sites, now called the “Gizmodo Group,” would need to be integrated into the already hefty portfolio of digital properties, which included The Onion, Fusion and The Root. While employees did expect some consolidation, they did not expect the magnitude of the layoffs.
According to insiders, Fusion’s marketing team was brought into a conference room on Wednesday morning and were told they were being let go. This included Fusion’s branded content unit, Lightworks. Top execs who were shown the door included Fusion’s vice president and creative director Stephen Leps, who headed up Lightworks, as well as Megan Gilbert, the director of branded content. A source estimated about 20 cuts from that team. A handful of marketing staffers were asked to stay on.
Fusion did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Under the reorganization, The Onion chief executive officer Mike McAvoy will take a larger role heading up sales for the Fusion Media Group.
On the editorial side, John Cook, editor of the Gizmodo Media Group, will oversee a 10-person investigative unit beginning Jan. 1, as Kate Drummond will become executive managing editor of the group.
Univision’s digital, entertainment and news chief Isaac Lee told staffers in a memo that Cook’s team will report to Keith Summa, and that the changes will necessitate a search for an editor in chief of Gizmodo Media. The Root, a site that covers the African-American community, will now fall under the oversight of Fusion editor in chief Dodai Stewart. Donna Byrd, publisher of The Root, will remain in her role.
Fusion’s Real Future vertical, which covers technology, will be folded into Gizmodo. Real Future editor Kashmir Hill will find a new leadership role at Gizmodo.
Elsewhere, Lee said it is looking into extending Gizmodo’s brands, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Lifehacker and others into TV, while it “streamlines” its video production efforts across the company under Jigar Mehta. The exec laid out other initiatives including a newly formed podcast unit, the expansion of Rise Up, its social impact team and other things.
Lee ended his note offering: “Unfortunately, as a result of some of these changes, and along with a broader streamlining of operations across Univision, some positions across FMG’s business, operations, and editorial teams are being eliminated. Constantly adjusting our scale and our processes is a reality of the business we are all in, and is not unique to us. As you have all no doubt read in recent weeks, media companies of all sizes are having to better manage costs and staffing levels. For us, these necessary changes come as we look to strategically bring together several distinct digital media companies into one powerful and nimble digital publishing entity, with many distinct passion points for many distinct, growing groups of readers, listeners and viewers.”
Univision had a third-quarter net loss of $30.5 million on total revenue of $735 million, down 8 percent. Fusion Media began as a joint venture between Univision and Disney’s ABC, as an effort to appeal to Latino millennials. The new venture, which launched roughly three years ago, had reported steep losses approaching $20 million. Even though Fusion began to show improvements, which included a more refined editorial voice targeting young, multicultural consumers, ABC sold its 50 percent stake to Univision in April.