Count Vice Media among the many digital outlets to already go with layoffs this year.
Just a week after the likes of BuzzFeed and Verizon’s digital media group (which includes HuffPost, Yahoo and TechCrunch) revealed plans to layoff roughly 200 and 800 employees, respectively, among several other publishers to have already made similar moves this year, Vice is bringing the axe down on hundreds of its own staffers.
Among one of the most well established digital media brands, Vice nevertheless is looking to cut costs and “realign” this year, leaving roughly 250 employees, or about 10 percent of its staff, without jobs.
A spokesman with The Writers Guild Of America East, under which a large proportion of Vice staff is unionized, confirmed the planned layoffs and characterized the news as “devastating.” The news of the layoffs was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
“We are working closely with our members, informing them of their rights, contractual guarantees and additional resources as we brace for the forthcoming layoffs,” the WGAE spokesman said.
But the move also comes only three months after Vice said it was planning to reduce headcount by 15 percent through “attrition” and by not filling open positions, instead of going to layoffs. It’s also Vice’s second round of layoffs in less than two years.
According to a number of current and possibly soon to be former Vice employees on Twitter, the layoffs were revealed in a morning memo from Nancy Dubuc (who last year succeeded Vice co-founder Shane Smith as chief executive officer) as part of a “global restructuring.”
That didn’t sit too well with many. An editor at Noisey, a music vertical under the Vice umbrella, said at least 12 of her coworkers have already been cut because, as the editor put it, “some rich people decided they weren’t rich enough yet.” She added that the move was “not surprising in the least,” but suggested workers were given little, if any notice.
“I’ve been here for over four years and have seen the way this company treats its workers,” the editor wrote. “We know you don’t care about us Nancy.”
At the start of this year, Vice’s union expanded to include another 200 employees, mainly in its TV and video operations, and the entire group ratified its first new contract since organizing in 2016. It seems that workers within TV and production sections will be putting their new contract to good use, as Vice’s show on HBO is set to end.
Lately it appears that digital media’s turn is up when it comes to facing serious difficulty in turning a profit. After what’s been essentially a decade-long bull run for the sector, happening while legacy media brands struggled, investors (from venture capital, to private equity to corporate) are getting tired of waiting for digital outlets to become profitable.
Vice alone has raised $1.4 billion in funding in recent years. The most recent round was in June 2017, when private equity firm TPG invested another $450 million based on a $5.3 billion valuation. How quickly things can change.
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