Digital News Highfliers Cut Their Staffs

From a Washington Post story by Elahe Izadi headlined “As ad dollars vanish, digital news highfliers cut their staffs”:

The layoffs came swiftly last week. At Vice Media, 155 people lost their jobs. Quartz laid off 80. Condé Nast, publisher of glossy magazines such as Vogue, cut 100 people. And as BuzzFeed furloughed staffers at its overseas divisions, its U.S.-based staffers braced for similar cuts.

For those who had been watching local newspapers struggle in the era of digitization, these announcements were sobering: Even the media business’s most savvy, innovative and glamorous players are hurting.

“The pain is across the board,” said Gabriel Kahn, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “This isn’t just a question of nimble, digital companies able to survive and lumbering, legacy ones perishing. The marketplace is too brutal the way it’s configured right now.”

The pandemic has created a strange dynamic for the media industry. People are consuming news like never before, but spikes in readership are coming alongside huge drops in the advertising revenue. . . .

While many digital news outlets faced drops in ad revenue, Kahn argued that it’s not solely because of the shrinkage of ad budgets but also because “so much of it is captured by two players: Facebook and Google.” Bell hoped the layoffs would serve “as a wake-up call: if you want news media, we have to do better in terms of policies that support it.”

Social distancing has added complications to the process of mass layoffs. No goodbye happy hours, no hugs. Quartz employees were warned that they would know if their job was on the chopping block if they received a calendar invitation that morning for a talk with their managers.

The job market is now flooded with a crop of experienced journalists picking over fewer possible jobs while also confronting a world-shaking pandemic. Many had to stop reporting on stories and spent subsequent days fielding calls from sources to say the stories won’t be published.

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