- Refinery29 is letting go of 34 staffers, or 7.5% of its workforce.
- It’s the latest sign of a turbulent market for digital publishers battling the duopoly of Facebook and Google.
- “We’re seeing a correction in the digital media space,” the cofounders said in a memo.
It’s layoff season in digital media.
The women-focused publisher Refinery29 is the latest media company to trim staff as the industry faces stiff headwinds. The company is letting go of 34 staffers, or about 7.5% of its staff, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The news comes on the heels of a slew of similar announcements. Publishers including BuzzFeed and Mic have shed staff this year as the digital-ad market continues to be dominated by Google and Facebook and web publishing struggles to figure out a sustainable business model.
Indeed, even as money pours into digital advertising, big players like Vice and BuzzFeed missed revenue targets, reported The Wall Street Journal. And a few weeks ago Ziff Davis purchased Mashable for a $50 million, a paltry sum compared to the company’s valuation just a few years ago.
Refinery29 is hardly immune to the climate, even after receiving a cash infusion from Turner in 2016. The company’s revenue has grown this year and will net out in the nine-figure range, according to a person familiar with the matter. But like many in the space, it has pushed for audience growth outside of its core fashion and lifestyle content (such as a push into hard news in 2015, as Digiday reported) and is now facing a need to focus on its biggest revenue growth opportunities.
So it’s making cuts across the board as it leans into live events, original content, research – and potentially acquisitions.
Business Insider obtained the following memo issued to the Refinery29 staff on Thursday morning by co-CEOs Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano:
This year has been a challenging one, not just politically and socially, but as it relates to the worlds of media and advertising. Yet, even in this difficult span of time, our business has grown, we actively diversified, and the Refinery29 brand and its expansive impact have never been more palpable, something all of you have made possible.
We are not immune to the challenges and tough decisions that come with adapting to this turbulent moment in time, despite our growth and momentum. As a leadership team, we must ensure the enduring success and influence of Refinery29 in the years ahead. And, in this particular moment that means tightening our belt in order to invest in the future.The consequence of this decision means we will part ways with 34 members of our team, or approximately 7.5% of our workforce.
This was a hard choice that we understand will have impact. Those R29’ers that will be leaving us have poured an incredible amount of heart, skill, and dedication into their roles here. We care about each one of them deeply, and we could not be more grateful and proud of everything they have accomplished and brought to Refinery29 during their time with us.
Looking ahead to 2018, we foresee that many of the challenges in our industry will likely continue-which is why we’re moving forward with clarity and resolution. As dozens of content companies have been funded over the past 48 months, we’re seeing a correction in the digital media space. This is a time where the strongest businesses with the most meaningful brands and diversified revenue streams will continue to shine-and thrive.
Against the backdrop of these dynamics, we are giving ourselves the flexibility to focus resources on the growth engines for the business. Some of these include: Original Content Creation (everything from long-form scripted and unscripted video to popular editorial franchises that can grow into their own worlds); Live Entertainment (a strong area of growth for us with our 29Rooms franchise); R29 Intelligence (the research and data engine that informs everything we do from creative to commercial); as well as strategic M&A that can help us to further accelerate our goals.
Our mission and impact as a company has never been greater and more necessary in the world and in people’s lives. In the coming years, we will continue our evolution from a digital advertising company to a diversified media company that shows up in original video content, TV, films, social, books, products and live entertainment.
We know those who are exiting will go on to do great things and will always be R29 alumni. Please join us in expressing gratitude and support for their immense contributions to R29.
Philippe & Justin