Apr 17, 2020 - Economy

Vox Media furloughs 9% of staff amid coronavirus crisis

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff. Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Vox Media is furloughing 9% of its staff from May 1 through July 31, with health insurance premiums being fully covered, a source familiar with the moves tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's one of the many media companies forced to take drastic measures to survive the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

  • Last week, Vox Media solicited donations from readers, foreshadowing its struggles.
  • The digital publishing company owns brands like Eater, SB Nation, New York Magazine and The Strategist.

Additional measures are being taken in addition to layoffs, according to a source at Vox Media:

  • About 1% of staff are moving to reduced hours from May 1 through July 31, with health insurance premiums still fully covered.
  • There will be a temporary tiered pay reduction for employees starting at an annual salary of $130,000 for the same time period.
  • 401(k) matches will be suspended through the end of 2020.
  • There will be a freeze on merit-based increases and promotions.

In a memo to staff Friday obtained by Axios, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff wrote: "The expectations that we had just a few weeks ago for our business and our lives no longer apply."

  • "When I say it’s our goal to limit the impact on our employees, I mean it."

The big picture: The pandemic is forcing dozens of major media companies to carry out layoffs and pay cuts.

  • Group Nine Media, which includes brands like Thrillist, Seeker, The Dodo, PopSugar and NowThis, laid off 7% of its workforce last week.
  • Bustle Digital Group laid off two dozen staffers in early April and shuttered its tech website The Outline.
  • Cheddar, BuzzFeed and dozens of other digital-native websites have also resorted to layoffs, furloughs and other measures to survive the pandemic.

Be smart: The digital news industry has been reeling from a tough economic outlook for a while — and Vox Media laid off roughly 50 staffers in 2018.

  • It also laid off hundreds of freelancers last year, after a new law passed in California that reclassified freelance journalists as contract workers.

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