The Atlantic Lays Off 68, Joining Other Media Companies That Have Had Layoffs and Furloughs

Also see the New York Times story by Marc Tracy posted this evening with the headline “The Atlantic Lays Off 68, Citing ‘a Bracing Decline in Advertising.'”

From a Washington Post story by Elahe Izadi headlined “The Atlantic lays off dozen of staff members as pandemic hits media budgets”:

The Atlantic magazine laid off 68 employees on Thursday, joining a growing list of media companies devastated by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The elimination of 17 percent of its staff came even as the 163-year-old publication broke readership records and added more than 90,000 new subscribers to its rolls since March. But that wasn’t enough to make up for significant losses to advertising and live-events revenue. . . .

Most of the layoffs affected the team that produces live events, as well as marketing and sales. Twenty-two editorial employees were laid off, including the Atlantic’s entire video team of 11 and three newsroom recruiters.

Executives will take a pay cut and the Atlantic is temporarily freezing salaries companywide. The magazine had already hit pause on hiring and its paid-fellowship program, which brings in early-career journalists. . . .

According to the company, the reorganization is part of an approach to focus on one of the most promising parts of its business: subscribers. The Atlantic brought back a paywall last year, and since then added 160,000 new subscribers, with a goal of reaching 1 million by December 2022.

But the cuts at the Atlantic underscore the strange dynamic the coronavirus pandemic has created in the media industry. People are consuming the news like never before, but the devastation to the broader economy means less revenue for media outlets. . . .

News outlets rely on a mixture of advertising revenue and subscriptions. The Atlantic, like other media outlets, also produced live events programming that often featured discussions with government officials, industry leaders and celebrities.

Live events were enticing to media outlets because they seemed to provide more dependable source of revenue than advertising, which had been steadily declining for years, said Bill Grueskin, a former deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and current Columbia Journalism School professor. . . .

Bradley sold a majority stake of the Atlantic magazine in 2017 to the Emerson Collective, a big-money group controlled by billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs.

Other media companies with billionaire ownership have instituted furloughs and layoffs because of the big loss in revenue caused by the pandemic.

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong owns the Los Angeles Times, where journalists agreed this month to accept pay cuts to avoid layoffs sparked by the sharp decline in advertising.

Last week, Quartz — created by Atlantic Media in 2012 — laid off 80 employees. In 2018, Bradley sold Quartz to Uzabase, a publicly held Japanese business intelligence and media company worth nearly $1 billion at the time.

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