Citing the failure of its social video efforts, Vox Media laid off about 50 people yesterday, mostly from Racked, Curbed, SB Nation, and the video team. At SB Nation, that meant terminating several full-time employees as well as at least 12 part-time employees who staffed the copy-editing desk and the news desk. According to four sources familiar with the situation, eight part-time copy editors were let go, essentially gutting the team completely. (Sources were unsure whether one copy editor was retained.) Four people on the news desk, which is responsible for blogging breaking news, quick analysis, and writing how-to-watch posts and live results blogs — the site’s bread and butter for search purposes — were also laid off. It is unclear how many people remain on the news desk.
Most of the part-timers — who were all employees, not independent contractors — had other jobs in addition to their work at SB Nation. Some of them had opted to be in the newly formed Vox Media union. These part-time workers were paid $12 to $14 an hour, sources said — barely above minimum wage — and could not work more than 29 hours a week, meaning that those employees couldn’t have accounted for a meaningful chunk of the company’s budget. They also had nothing to do with the “initiatives around native social video” that Bankoff said would not “be viable audience or revenue growth drivers.”
The timing of the SB Nation layoffs, in the middle of the Olympics and just weeks before March Madness, also raises questions about the company’s motives. Maybe the cutbacks are part of a shift away from SB Nation’s signature SEO content mill strategy. Or maybe quality over quantity is just what every downsizing company says.
The Vox Media union, formally recognized by the company last month, tweeted support for the employees who were laid off.
SB Nation declined to comment on the record.