The publisher alerted staff in an internal e-mail, saying it is expecting to come up 5 percent short on its 2018 revenue target and is restructuring as a result. While all departments will likely be affected, the bulk of job losses will be on the product, engineering and video teams.
“These reductions, while difficult, were designed to enable R29 to achieve 2019 goals and successfully grow over the long-term,” a representative for Refinery29 confirmed in an e-mail to WWD.
The decision involves “doubling down on our investment in key growth areas, as well as reducing resources in other areas of our business,” according to the memo, which referred to the media landscape as a “tough environment.”
Refinery29, a private company based in New York, was launched in 2005 by husband-and-wife team Philippe von Borries and Piera Gelardi, along with Christene Barberich and Justin Stefano. The platform focuses on beauty, fashion, entertainment, news and lifestyle trends from a female perspective. Last year, Refinery had a valuation of about $500 million. In the memo, the founders anticipate the international revenue stream will increase by 100 percent from the previous year and its direct-to-consumer business, which includes live events, is expected to rise by 300 percent.
But signs of trouble have been brewing for a while. In December 2017, Refinery29 cut 34 staffers, or about 7.5 percent of its staff. Along with the layoffs came a round of new top hires in an effort to boost monthly viewers, including senior features writer Ashley Ford; Judith Ohikuare, to develop Work & Money stories; managing editor Jessica Blankenship; beauty reporter Khalea Underwood, and Sophie Saint Thomas, a sex writer.
The company did not comment on whether there will be further layoffs, but the memo said Refinery29 will be “working with departing staffers to provide support as they explore their next career move. We have an incredibly powerful alumni network, and we are working with our investors and partners to offer access to their resources and opportunities within their portfolio of companies.”
Independent digital publisher Vox Media is also expected to miss its revenue target for the year. Last year, Buzzfeed and Vice Media missed their revenue goals.