Vice Media is laying off 55 U.S. staffers and about 100 more internationally as it faces uncertainty due to COVID-19.
The moves, which follow a 10% workforce reduction in early 2019, are the result of a need to shore up the company’s digital business, CEO Nancy Dubuc announced Friday in a memo to employees.
“The reality is that some tough decisions had to be made primarily around our digital teams,” Dubuc wrote in the memo, which was provided to Deadline. “Currently, our digital organization accounts for around 50% of our headcount costs, but only brings in about 21% of our revenue. Looking at our business holistically, this imbalance needed to be addressed for the long-term health of our company.”
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Dubuc added that 90% of roles in the digital operation were preserved through various efforts and the group will now be overseen by Jesse Angelo, Amy Emmerich, Cory Haik, and Hosi Simon.
Departing employees in the U.S. will get to keep work laptops and will receive medical benefits through the end of the year in addition to severance pay, the company said.
With newsgathering at the core of Vice’s business across TV and digital, Dubuc expressed anxiety about the way the digital business had been evolving even before the pandemic. Top-name digital publishers like BuzzFeed and Vox have been forced to cut costs recently as they struggle to reconcile ambitious expansion with the difficulty of competing with the duopoly of Facebook and Google. The two tech giants account for two-thirds of all ad spending in digital, and Amazon is now also a major force knocking at the advertising door, putting the squeeze on smaller players.
“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,” Dubuc 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.”
The Wall Street Journal last month reported the company was expecting advertising shortfalls of 33% at Refinery29, which the company acquired last year, and 39% across Vice entertainment and news websites.
Beyond its digital business, Vice operates the Viceland cable TV network and supplies documentary programming to Showtime and Hulu.
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