10 Media Companies That Laid Off Employees In 2017: Bear Market or Great Depression Coming?

Avatar
Written by Dana Sanchez

Can the media industry survive the rise of the Google-Facebook duopoly? The machine they created is crushing anything in its path and leaving few crumbs for the smaller media players.

Are we facing a bear market, or is another Great Depression coming?

The following 10 media companies laid off employees in 2017 — or said they plan to. Many said their layoffs are part of restructuring and adapting to a future that includes more diverse revenue streams — especially video. Several media companies listed here announced their layoffs after securing funding to diversify.

1. BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said in a memo in late November that the company plans to restructure its business team, resulting in layoffs of about 100 people. BuzzFeed needs to shift away from direct advertising sales to more diverse revenue streams, Peretti said.

2. Mashable

In April, Mashable said it would lay off 24 staff writers — essentially its entire news editorial staff — as part of a “strategic shift” toward video, CNNMoney learned. The layoffs came a week after Mashable received a $15 million round in funding to build video content in partnership with Turner Broadcasting.

3. ESPN

ESPN planned to lay off more than 100 staffers after the Thanksgiving holidays, Sports Illustrated learned. The layoffs were expected to include on-air talent on the TV side, producers, executives, and digital and technology staffers. ESPN has experienced significant layoffs in the last two years. In Oct. 2015 it laid off about 300 employees, about 4-5 percent of its workforce. In April, ESPN laid off 100 journalists and on-air personalities.

“ESPN continues to be impacted by the changing habits of consumers including cord-cutting and cord-nevers (those who have never purchased a cable subscription) as well as the rising costs of sports rights,” according to Sports Illustrated. “The network has dropped in households from 100.13 million in 2011 to an estimated 87.5 million households today.”

4. Vice Media

Vice Media laid off about 60 employees in July so it could place a greater emphasis on video, according to L.A. Times. The layoffs came a month after Vice announced it had secured $450 million in funding from private equity firm TPG to bolster video expansion. The layoffs represented a 2-percent cut of Vice’s 3,000 employees. The Brooklyn-based company started creating video content in 2006, and is a major source of revenue. U.S. digital video ad spending exceded $10 billion in 2016 and could approach $18 billion by 2020, according to data from market research company eMarketer. Layoffs included positions in sales, branded content, editorial and corporate areas

5. Complex

A year after being bought by Verizon and Hearst, Complex Networks laid off much of its product team in October. The reason? Partly a “pivot to video” that began in 2016, Recode reported. Founded by fashion designer Mark Ecko in 2002, Complex appeals to a young male audience. The sale valued the media company at more than $250 million. The company said the number of layoffs was just a “handful” of the company’s 400 employees.

6. Mic

New York City-based Mic laid off 25 employees in August — about half of them from the newsroom — as the company shifts its emphasis and resources to video content, CNN reported. The news company said it will focus more on visual journalism. Visual journalism already makes up 75 percent of the time that Mic’s audience spends with the site, Mic co-founder and CEO Chris Altchek said in an internal email obtained by CNN. “As new platforms emerge and existing platforms continue to grow, we believe this will become a dominant form of news consumption for our audience,” he wrote.

7. HuffPost

When Verizon acquired Yahoo and merged to form a single business unit called Oath, 39 journalists at HuffPost were laid off in June. The layoffs were part of an anticipated 15-percent staff reduction across Yahoo and the Verizon-owned AOL, which merged following a $4.48-billion sale. About 2,000 Yahoo and AOL workers are expected to lose their jobs as Verizon trims expenses and eliminates overlapping positions, L.A. Times reported.

Oath is seen as a strong third alternative in a rapidly growing digital advertising market that is currently dominated by Google and Facebook. Oath properties include HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL.com, Makers, Tumblr, Build Studios, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Mail.

8. Condé Nast

Condé Nast, the publisher of The New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair, said in November that it plans to lay off about 80 employees across the company, New York Times reported in November. The changes reflect Condé Nasts’s ongoing shift away from print towards “leaner, more digitally oriented” content. “As audiences continue to evolve around content consumption, we will continue to modernize and calibrate how, where and when we produce and distribute our content to be in sync with the cultural moments and platforms most important to our audiences,” the company said in a statement.

This has been a terrible year for Condé Nast, the New York Post reported this week. That includes losing about $100 million and “two steep rounds of layoffs in the ballpark of 200 jobs in total.” The publisher is to cut its corporate side, which includes its digital business. Its entertainment division, Condé Nast Entertainment, is also said to be under review.

9. New York Times

Ten advertising sales executives were laid off early this month from a 15-person department at the New York Times — part of a fresh round of layoffs, the New York Post reported. This followed a tough year in advertising sales. The Times wants to expand digital sales to counterbalance shriveling print sales, according to the report. New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson said the Times expects high-single-digit declines in total advertising revenues for the fourth quarter.

10. Time Inc.

Time, Inc. laid off 300 people worldwide in June — about 4 percent of the company’s workforce — and  50 to 75 people lost their jobs in another round of layoffs beginning in October, New York Post reported. It’s part of Time’s digital transformation, WWD reported. Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corp. announced in late November that it was buying Time Inc for $1.85 billion in cash and assuming about $1 billion in Time Inc. debt. “Charles and David Koch are supplying $650 million of that cash, raising fears that they will want to use the magazines, especially Time, to spread their conservative views,” Bloomberg reported.

Media layoffs
Image: Louisa Cannell