Vice Media Group cuts 155 staffers globally

Vice Media Group, the parent company of Vice globally, Refinery 29 and i-D, has cut 155 roles globally – 55 from its US publishers and 100 from markets around the world.

A spokesperson for Vice wouldn’t confirm what this meant for the Australian market, but confirmed the business had cut around 5% of its global headcount.

Vice is axing 5% of staff globally

In a letter sent to staff, Vice Media Group CEO Nancy Dubac said the business went to every possible length to preserve roles.

“While a core group of senior leaders have been working tirelessly to think through and reimagine how to weather these anything-but-normal times. While losing even one job feels like too many, these decisions ultimately rest with me and I assure you that we went to great lengths to preserve jobs,” said Dubac.

“The reality is that some tough decisions had to be made primarily around our digital teams. 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.”

The business stopped hiring when the pandemic struck, said Dubac, and moved as many people as possible into new roles.

“None of these things makes today any easier. The fact is that we have to say goodbye to 55 colleagues in the US today and approximately 100 colleagues globally over the coming weeks. I want you to know that we’ve done absolutely everything we could to protect these positions for as long as possible, and your time and contributions will forever be part of who we are and who we will become,” said Dubac.

All workers would be paid severance pay, said Dubac, be able to keep their work-issued laptops and would receive services to help them find a new role. US employees would also be able to access health benefits until the end of the year.

“Publishing right now is difficult across the whole industry— plain and simple— and the pandemic has intensified the tensions we all know exist between publishing and advertising. While big tech has brought wonderful things to our lives, they are also posing a great threat to journalism,” said Dubac.

“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. 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. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie. And while the crescendo has been building for some time, now it is more clear than ever … 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away.

“I worry about the day that I fear is fast approaching, when I wake up and everything I see, touch and know is because a few machines filtered my view by “optimizing” the world around me for the sake of more growth and more revenue. The world has learned this before: monopolies are not a winning strategy for humanity. It’s time we stand together as a media industry and address the serious issues that have slowly eroded the original promise of the Internet: a tool to bring society on more equal footing through knowledge and creativity unparalleled.”

Dubac’s comments are ones echoed by publishers in Australia where the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently considering how it will force Facebook and Google to pay for news.

News Corp CEO Michael Miller has been outspoken about how much benefit publishers would reap if the big tech platforms provided revenue, estimating around $1bn per year would be a fair sum.

In February 2019 Vice cut 10% of its staff globally. At the time it was reported the publisher had around 50 staff in Australia. A restructure to help the business ‘hit its goals’ was blamed for the losses.

In the last week alone both Buzzfeed News and 10 Daily have ended editorial operations in Australia.


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