Jan 26, 2024 - Business

Mainstream media bloodbath: News outlets slash jobs as business suffers

Illustration of a hand holding a cursor like a knife.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Nearly a dozen mainstream media companies are gutting staff and scrambling to rescue their struggling businesses.

Why it matters: The media business is shrinking at the national, state and local levels — a scary, stark new reality for thousands of journalists.

The big picture: Media cuts were so severe last year that most industry observers weren't expecting such intense cutbacks in 2024. But an ongoing bloodbath is decimating news outlets nationwide.

  • It's also fueling a new round of conflict between unions and management as tensions run high.

Driving the news: Forbes' newsroom union began a three-day walkout Thursday arguing management was union busting. Its CEO announced layoffs later that afternoon hitting roughly 3% of the company.

  • Insider announced it was eliminating 8% of its workforce, months after a union strike over a contract impasse with management.
  • The New York Daily News editorial union walked off the job Thursday to protest "chronic cuts" by its owner, private equity firm Alden Capital.
  • Paramount CEO Bob Bakish warned employees Thursday that the company is planning a fresh round of layoffs.
  • The Los Angeles Times planned a one-day, multicity walkout in protest of plans for 115 job cuts. Two top editors resigned, less than two weeks after executive editor Kevin Merida stepped down.
  • Condé Nast saw hundreds of union workers walk off the job Tuesday to protest hundreds of previously announced layoffs impacting approximately 5% of staff, or roughly 300 people.
  • Sports Illustrated's newsroom was gutted by sweeping layoffs after its parent company, The Arena Group, failed to make a $3.75 million quarterly payment to the group from which it licenses the Sports Illustrated brand.
Data: Axios research; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Several media companies are also trying to sell some of their most recognized brands in an effort to free up cash:

How we got here: Ad growth in the 2010s was unsustainably high, and publishers acted like it would last forever.

  • It didn't. Now high interest rates are preventing them from taking on new debt to try to buy themselves time to figure it out.

What we're watching: Heading into 2024, analysts predicted that digital advertising will only grow in the mid-single digits for the foreseeable future.

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