An extremely rough week for the media industry ended with more bad news Friday when Vice Media Group revealed 155 layoffs worldwide.
Chief executive officer Nancy Dubuc told staffers that the Brooklyn-headquartered company will be axing 55 roles in the U.S. Friday and about 100 in other countries over the next few weeks to counter the coronavirus-related advertising slump facing the whole media industry. Vice’s digital side will be heavily impacted.
“The reality is that some tough decisions had to be made primarily around our digital teams,” she said. “Currently, our digital organization accounts for around 50 percent of our headcount costs, but only brings in about 21 percent of our revenue. Looking at our business holistically, this imbalance needed to be addressed for the long-term health of our company.”
This is the second round of cuts that Vice, which owns Refinery29, Garage and I-D, has had to make due to COVID-19. In March, it implemented a three-month-long pay cut for many employees. As part of this, executives saw their pay reduced by 25 percent, with Dubuc taking a 50 percent cut.
She stressed that executives had tried everything to protect these positions for as long as possible. The Vice Union, in a statement posted to Twitter, argued that management did not agree to take even deeper pay cuts.
“For more than a month, Vice repeatedly refused to discuss work-share programs, like the one the Los Angeles Times used to avoid layoffs, with our union,” the union alleged. “Vice also did not agree to make further cuts to executive compensation before laying off 100 employees.”
But Vice is not alone in having to take further action as cuts it previously made turned out not to be enough to enable the company to keep its head above water during the pandemic.
Earlier this week, both Condé Nast and BuzzFeed unveiled additional cost cutting measures. For Condé, that involved laying off about 100 workers and furloughing a similar amount. As for BuzzFeed, it’s on its third round of cuts, this time shuttering its news operations in the U.K. and Australia and furloughing more staffers.
Two business-focused outlets also took drastic action this week. Business news site Quartz laid off 80 staffers, about half of its global workforce, while The Economist is letting go of 90 employees in mainly commercial roles. In addition, it said that its bimonthly lifestyle magazine 1843 will cease print operations later this year, making it digital-only.
For its part, Vice also partially blamed so called ‘Big Tech’ for some of its woes, with Dubuc telling staffers that platforms were taking much of the advertising revenues. “[T]he squeeze is becoming a choke hold. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie,” she said.
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