Vox Media Laying Off Around 50 Staffers

Jim Bankoff - 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt NY - Getty - H 2017
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The cuts, which mainly targeted social video teams, were announced by CEO Jim Bankoff on Wednesday morning.

In a memo to staff Wednesday morning, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff announced plans to lay off around 50 employees, with the Racked, Curbed, SB Nation, and Video Services teams "bearing the biggest impact."

Additionally, he said that around 12 other employees will be offered "role changes." The cuts amount to around 5 percent of Vox Media's staff.

"As a result of our decision to wind down certain initiatives, we’ll be saying goodbye to some of our talented colleagues who have made valuable contributions to our success," Bankoff wrote, calling Wednesday "one of the toughest days we've had as a company."

He continued: "Our leadership team and I took this decision very seriously. We know it has a big impact on the lives of our co-workers who will be leaving, as well as on the morale of those who remain. We commit to treating all those affected with professionalism, compassion and dignity."

Bankoff said that initiatives around native social video, while "growing successfully and surpassing audience growth goals, won’t be viable audience or revenue growth drivers for us relative to other investments we are making." He cited "industry changes over the past few months and our long-term budgeting process" as contributing factors.

While a rumor circulated within the company and online that shopping and style brand Racked is closing, the company said that's not the case.

"The Racked brand is not folding," a company spokesperson said. "We are cutting Racked's native social video and shopping programs, but will continue to support the rest of their incredible journalism and talented team of reporters." The spokesperson confirmed, though, that some Racked staffers are being offered editorial roles at other Vox Media brands.

In the memo, Bankoff made clear that Vox Media is making these changes to ensure the continued strength of the company, which has seen growth in both audience and revenue. The company will continue to invest in newer initiatives that are doing well, including podcasting and the production arm Vox Entertainment.

"We are in a strong place creatively, journalistically, and financially," he said. "However, staying ahead of the pack in this business requires not only relentless execution, but also making tough decisions like this, doing what we must when necessary to maximize opportunity in places with the clearest positive outcomes."

At an industry conference last week, Bankoff said the company would be moving away from producing Facebook-native content, citing "its unreliable monetization and promotion."

While layoffs are commonplace in the media industry, Vox Media had gone more than 12 years without a major round of cutting. CNN Digital recently parted ways with 40-something employees as part of a restructuring. BuzzFeed made cuts last November as part of a reshaping of its business team, and has also been shifting how it approaches social video.

Last month, Vox Media formally recognized an editorial and video staff union that formed among employees. The union bargaining committee emailed employees about the cuts Wednesday. 

"We organized this union in large part because of instability in our industry," the committee said. "While this news is devastating, together we will have a seat at the table and an opportunity to help those colleagues who are being laid off. We are going to fight hard for the best we can get for our coworkers during this crucial time. In the meantime, we've started a shared sheet full of job openings around the industry."

The union continued: "As a union, we want to spend this time looking out for each other. We are going to get through this together."