Citing business challenges and a low return on investment from resources spent on producing content for digital platforms, Vice Media C.E.O. Nancy Dubuc announced plans on Friday morning for 155 employees to be laid off.
In a memo, Dubuc said that 55 staffers will be cut on Friday in the U.S. and that “approximately” 100 staffers will be cut abroad “over the coming weeks.”
“I want you to know that we’ve done absolutely everything we could to protect these positions for as long as possible, and your time and contributions will forever be part of who we are and who we will become,” Dubuc wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
In February 2019, as part of a reorganization, the company cut 10 percent of its staff, or approximately 250 people.
In the memo, Dubuc told staffers that “tough decisions” had to be made about the company’s digital teams, which she said account for 50 percent of Vice’s headcount costs but only generate 21 percent of the company’s revenue. But, she said the company was able to preserve 90 percent of digital roles.
“Looking at our business holistically, this imbalance needed to be addressed for the long-term health of our company,” she wrote.
The global spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic has completely upended the digital media business model, resulting in layoffs or furloughs at almost every prominent company in the industry. On Thursday, the global business publication Quartz laid off 80 employees, representing 40 percent of its staff, and on Wednesday, magazine giant Conde Nast laid off 100 staffers in the U.S.
VIce Media had been expected to make deep cuts.
Dubuc said in the memo that laid off employees will receive severance pay and will be able to keep their work-issued laptops. U.S.-based employees will also receive extended health benefits coverage through the end of 2020.
“Saying goodbye to you today is our loss entirely and as the leader of this company, I take personal responsibility,” she wrote.
Dubuc also used the memo to lament the “great threat to journalism” posed by “Big Tech” companies.
“We grew our digital business faster than anyone at a time when we believed that as more pies were baked, we’d keep getting a slice,” she wrote. “We work hard for that slice — we make great shows, write culture-driving stories and break news on issues no one else wants to touch. But we aren’t seeing the return from the platforms benefiting and making money from our hard work. Now, after many years of this, the squeeze is becoming a chokehold. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie. And while the crescendo has been building for some time, now it is more clear than ever … 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away.”
Ending with an industry-wide call to action, Dubuc added, “It’s time we stand together as a media industry and address the serious issues that have slowly eroded the original promise of the Internet: a tool to bring society on more equal footing through knowledge and creativity unparalleled.”
Vice Media’s union criticized the layoffs in a statement on Friday morning, claiming that the company “repeatedly refused to discuss workshare programs, like the one that the Los Angeles Times used to avoid layoffs, with our unions” and “did not agree to make further cuts to executive compensation before laying off 100 employees.”
Summing up the situation, the union said: “We understand that the entire news industry is hurting. We do not understand why Vice chose to lay off many of our colleagues in the middle of a global pandemic instead of exhausting all options to save these jobs.”