Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Two popular media brands recently announced “restructuring” efforts for their digital operations, which means layoffs are coming. Digital media standard-bearer and popular online brand Vox, which currently employs about 1,000, said it plans to layoff 50 employees and ask at least a dozen other staff to shift into other roles in the company.

Popular websites impacted by this move include SB Nation, Curbed and The Racked.

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff sent a memo to staffers last week, in which he first announced the news:

“Today is one of the toughest days we've had as a company… As a result of our decision to wind down certain initiatives, we'll be saying goodbye to some of our talented colleagues who have made valuable contributions to our success.” Bankoff blamed “industry changes” for the decision to cut the workforce, noting: “We are in a strong place creatively, journalistically, and financially. However, staying ahead of the pack in this business requires not only relentless execution but also making tough decisions like this…”

That doesn’t mean Vox is simply circling the wagons and hoping for better days. The company says it plans to continue working on new products, such as Vox Entertainment, which will be dedicated to original video content.

Vox isn’t alone in the cutbacks. News media giant CNN is tightening its digital belt as well, and announced layoffs that should also effect “less than” 50 employees across multiple jobs including video production, programming, and product development.

The two big digital brands join a growing number of media companies, including BuzzFeed and Vice, in cutting staff as they try to discern the right approach to a fast-shifting digital marketplace. Conventional teams are less necessary, and more cross-over talent is being recruited.

The digital world is constantly changing, based on consumer trends, as well as the whims of Google and Facebook, which, together, own the keys to most content consumed online these days. Any time either of these online titans change how they display content or who gets to see it, digital media companies have to find a new sweet spot … or their content virtually disappears. These brands and others are also struggling to find ways to earn ad revenue online. They need a constant stream of both repeat viewers and new faces landing on their pages, and that stream is often controlled by gatekeepers like social media or search engines.

Consumers, too, are signaling a sea change. Where brand loyalty was once primary in media consumption, people are less connected with a single outlet and more apt to look for topics rather than filters. Expect these changes to continue to affect this new media world.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, and author of “For Immediate Release.” Read his bio here.