Apr 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

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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Updated 14 mins ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Health experts fear that the protests breaking out across the U.S. could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

The state of play: Being outside may limit the danger, but close quarters, yelling, and potential exposure to tear gas, which causes coughing and crying, increase the risk of spread. It's recommended that those who are protesting be tested for the coronavirus.

Increased armed presence planned for D.C. tonight

Demonstrators stand around a fire during a protest near the White House in response to the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Government officials say plans are in place for a significantly heavier armed presence on the streets of Washington, D.C. tonight in response to the increasingly violent protests linked to the death of George Floyd.

What we're hearing: "Tonight you will see increased presence, both police...other agencies, and National Guard presence," a source familiar with the government's plans said.

Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 6,226,408 — Total deaths: 373,973 — Total recoveries — 2,672,161Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,799,747 — Total deaths: 104,702 — Total recoveries: 444,758 — Total tested: 16,936,891Map.
  3. Public health: Nearly 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes have been reported to federal health officials —Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. Federal government: Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets.
  5. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The virus didn't go away.