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Vox Media to lay off about 72 employees as advertising revenue slumps amid coronavirus quarantines

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Vox Media is laying off 6% of its staff, or about 72 employees, as advertising revenue declined amid coronavirus quarantines.

The majority of those laid off were furloughed by the company earlier this year, Chief Executive Jim Bankoff said in an e-mail to employees obtained by CNBC. Vox is eliminating roles that have “experienced substantial changes in workload or business priority; in some cases they are in areas undergoing a strategic shift accelerated by the crisis and its hastened changes to our industry.” 

Some other non-furloughed employees will be affected too, Bankoff said. Vox is bringing back about 30% of the employees it furloughed in the spring. CNBC reported on the impending layoffs earlier this week.

While Vox hit its revenue targets for the first two months of 2020, Vox was 40% off its forecast for the second quarter and plans to miss its full-year target by 25%, said two of the people, CNBC reported.

Media companies across the U.S. have had to cut salary and staff during the coronavirus pandemic to make up for lost advertising revenue. Vox avoided layoffs earlier this year with pay cuts and furloughs. Vox will reinstate full salaries after temporarily reducing pay in May, excluding Bankoff and his executive team, Bankoff said. 

“When we merged with New York Media last year we did everything we could to avoid layoffs – and, as a result, we were the only recent media merger to keep its teams intact,” Bankoff said in the note. “We expect, based on our current outlook, that the difficult actions that we are taking today will be sufficient to weather this downturn and uncertainty, without need for significant additional measures.”

Vox Media owns news, technology and culture sites such as Vox, The Verge, New York Magazine, Eater, SBNation and Curbed.

Here’s the full letter:

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Dear Team,

With deep sadness, and as a consequence of the pandemic and its devastating impact on the economy, I am writing to let you know that today we will be informing some of our colleagues that they will no longer have jobs at Vox Media.

It goes without saying by now that COVID-19 has had an impact that no one could have anticipated. Obviously, first and foremost we recognize the tragedy and scale of the public health crisis. In the resulting economic downturn across media and other industries, companies are reorienting their operations to reduce expenses and conserve cash while remaining nimble in an enormously unpredictable environment. While our work and efforts have never been stronger or more relevant, Vox Media is not exempt from the pain caused by the wake of the pandemic. Like others, we have had to make difficult decisions to position our business for long term growth, success, and financial sustainability.  While doing so, we are making every reasonable attempt to save as many jobs as possible and prioritize the health, safety and welfare of those who will be leaving as well as those who will be staying with our company.

We will be laying off 6% of our employees. These layoffs include furloughed colleagues as well as other employees who were not on furlough. The roles affected have experienced substantial changes in workload or business priority; in some cases they are in areas undergoing a strategic shift accelerated by the crisis and its hastened changes to our industry. The majority of those impacted today were furloughed in May. We have already or will bring back close to 30% of furloughed employees who did not take buyouts. 

Our hope in May was that business would bounce back in the months that followed. As we discussed in last week’s all-hands, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the second half of the year will not rebound anywhere near our pre-COVID forecasts. Furthermore, as cases rise tragically across the country and many of our elected leaders avoid decisive action, we have very limited visibility into the timing or strength of a recovery.

As we have said since the onset of the crisis and hopefully demonstrated to you from our actions over the past five months, our priority in this pandemic has been the well-being of our team. Accordingly, those employees impacted will receive health insurance and severance packages that recognize the unprecedented circumstances of the crisis. 

I also hope it’s clear that we are a company that does not take these actions lightly. Neither the furloughs nor today’s actions were contemplated prior to this pandemic. In fact, as I have mentioned previously, when we merged with New York Media last year we did everything we could to avoid layoffs – and, as a result, we were the only recent media merger to keep its teams intact. 

We expect, based on our current outlook, that the difficult actions that we are taking today will be sufficient to weather this downturn and uncertainty, without need for significant additional measures. While still being mindful of costs, where necessary and possible, we will be reinvesting in our business and our people in ways that are critical to building the leading modern media company during this time: 

  • We will continue to prioritize our diversity, equity and inclusion work, investing in partnerships that drive this work forward and embedding accountability for this work in each of our networks and lines of business. 
  • We will reinstate full salaries as planned, after the temporary and tiered salary cut we implemented in May. We feel it is crucial to compensate our employees fully for their work during a time in which they have been performing so well under such stressful conditions. The only exceptions are me and my executive team, who will continue our reductions. 
  • We will be prioritizing career development and we will be evaluating promotions for those in a new role or doing substantially different work since just prior to or during the crisis.
  • And, in areas where we will be growing, we will be hiring business critical open heads in new roles aligned with our company priorities.  

To those who are impacted, thank you for everything that you have created, built, supported, produced, sold, and the countless other contributions you have made to our work at Vox Media. The decisions made today are not a reflection of your work or success, but of a devastating pandemic that transformed the economy and businesses around the world. The rest of us who are not impacted today will also be deeply affected by the departure of our colleagues. 

I know that it’s an especially difficult time as everyone also deals with the layered stresses of health, safety, parenting, solitude, burnout and overall uncertainty.  I want to remind you of the various mental health benefits that we have detailed in previous communications. In the face of many challenges, we continue to do our best work, serving our audiences and customers remotely, while treating one another with empathy and compassion. I couldn’t be more grateful or proud. It is your spirit and dedication to your work and to one another that gives me full confidence that Vox Media is uniquely positioned for renewed growth, continued industry leadership and success in a post-pandemic economy.

Executives, senior leaders, and People & Culture business partners will be reaching out to people today to discuss their employment status and I will host an all-hands meeting for all employees who want to attend later this afternoon. 

Jim

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Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Vox Media.

WATCH: Vox Media’s Jim Bankoff on the acquisition of New York Magazine

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