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After 17 staffers at Vice Digital and Refinery29 were laid off on Thursday, the Vice Media and Refinery29 unions decried the staff cuts as “a macabre annual ritual” at the company and took aim at the media company’s recent “pivot” in strategy to focus on videos and visual storytelling.
“We have worked in this industry long enough to know that today’s metrics are tomorrow’s punchlines, and yesterday’s pivot is today’s clumsy tumble,” the unions said in a joint statement shared on social media. “What makes our work meaningful is the expertise and hard work of the people callously brushed aside today.”
In a memo to staff obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Vice Media’s chief digital officer, Cory Haik, attributed the layoffs to a “global alignment” happening across the company.
“We’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our friends and colleagues today,” Haik wrote. “We wish them well and thank them for their dedicated service over the years.”
But the job cuts come as Vice has been undergoing a change in strategy emphasizing videos and visual storytelling to target younger audiences.
“You can’t be a youth media company if you’re not focused on where the youth are consuming media,” Haik told The New York Times last month. “And more and more, that’s off-platform, that’s built-for-mobile.”
Under the leadership of CEO Nancy Dubuc, Vice has also explored going public via a special purpose acquisitions company. But according to a July report from The Information, Vice has struggled to raise additional funding amid concerns about its reported $2.5 billion valuation, which is already a marked decrease from its $5.7 billion valuation back in 2017.
Last year, Vice laid off 155 employees, with the cuts largely impacting the company’s digital teams.
(Disclosure: The author was employed by Vice between 2019 to 2020.)
Aug. 26, 12:21 p.m.: Updated with statement from Vice and R29 unions.
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