Layoffs Looming Over The Onion As Univision Reviews Its Operations

By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Dade Hayes

The Onion

Satirical website The Onion looks to be the latest digital media upstart to undergo layoffs.

Corporate parent Univision Communications is looking to reduce the staff by around 15%, as the Spanish-language media giant implements cuts across the company, multiple sources confirm. The privately held company is barely a month into the tenure of new CEO Vince Sadusky, who took the role after an eventful period during which it pulled plans for an IPO and retained a consultant to help it reassess its operations.

The job losses would hit The Onion’s network of digital properties, which include its namesake website, the satiric Clickhole, the pop-culture-focused The A.V. Club and the food site The Takeout.

Univision has yet to begin negotiations with the editorial union, though it hopes to accomplish the reductions through voluntary buyouts instead of through layoffs, sources say.

The media company adopted the same approach with the Gizmodo Media Group sites, which were formerly known as Gawker Media. (Gawker, the onetime flagship, shut down after losing a landmark lawsuit brought by wrestler Hulk Hogan.) The Gizmodo portfolio includes the sports outlet Deadspin, tech news site Gizmodo, women-focused Jezebel, and the African-American news site The Root, where 44 people took a buyout.

Gizmodo and The Onion are the latest among a number of digital media publishers, including BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Vice Media, to have laid off employees over the past year as the industry struggles to find profitability.

Univision was courting a younger demographic when it began assembling these digital assets under former CEO Randy Falco. The media company believed these digital publications would reach young Latinos who consume their media in English, even if they’re bilingual. During annual presentations to advertisers in the spring, Univision’s main upfront event did not emphasize the digital portfolio.

The Gizmodo Media Group sites continue to see year over year growth, and, together with the Onion’s network of sites, reach 120 million unique monthly users.

Some see the cuts as a signal that the media company may be re-evaluating its strategy. The reductions, which were first reported by The Daily Beast, could even be a prelude to a sale, one source says. Reports of digital properties being shopped have circulated for months.

A Univision spokesperson declined comment.

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