Refinery29 Lays Off 10% of Its Staff, Unifies Sales Team

Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano, co-CEOs-cofounders of 13-year-old digital brand Refinery29, anno unced in a memo that the company would lay off 10% of its staff.

von Borries and Stefano wrote: “As CEOs, it is our responsibility to all of you and the company that we make the necessary changes that will drive the business toward long-term success. This means having a rigorous focus on both our future growth and the bottom line of the company.” 

The areas being most impacted by the layoffs, which amount to around 40 full-time staffers, are the product, engineering and video divisions. The company is cutting back on producing content with a short shelf life, mainly quick-hit video content, and focuses on “premium, evergreen” content, where the founders expect to continue to see the most growth.



“We will continue to produce more award-winning programming (both short and long-form) with less emphasis on the production of content with a short shelf life. While this type of content has been driving views, it has not yielded a great monetization strategy to justify the same level of continued investment,” they wrote.

As part of the restructuring, Refinery29 will also unify its sales teams into a unified Customer Solutions Group, in addition to a Sales Planning and Operations Group. 

The news comes as other digital media outlets show signs of slowing, at least in hiring.

Thinknum reported earlier this week that Vox Media, BuzzFeed and Vice are hiring at their slowest rate in years. However, Thinknum notes the companies are doing well — the layoffs and slowed hiring are a result of experimentation with new revenue streams. 

According to the outlet, Vice, one of the largest new media companies in the world, has fewer than 50 openings at its company, down from more than 100 in 2016. It also saw a drop in its listing as an employer across LinkedIn profiles.

BuzzFeed has seen its hiring activity slow since 2017. Today, the company has 68 open positions, down from 183 in April 2017. Vox Media had just 43 openings listed earlier this month, down from 107 in November 2017.

Going hand in hand with this slow down is a history of layoffs and missed revenue marks. Vox Media, BuzzFeed and Vice have all seen rounds of layoffs over the past few years.

Vox Media expects to miss its revenue target this year by 15%, according to The Wall Street Journal, while BuzzFeed continues to reorganize its focus. (It missed its own revenue mark by up to 20% in 2017)

In June, BuzzFeed laid off approximately 20 people, before hiring 45 more as it moved away from Facebook as a source of revenue and toward other sources.

In their memo, von Borries and Stefano noted that Refinery29 continues to show growth across portions of the company. International growth is up 100% and its originals business has grown by 50%. Refinery29’s direct-to-consumer business, including its live events, increased revenue by 300%. Yet, the company expects to miss its overall revenue goal by 5%.

Precariousness reigns across the digital sphere — advertising revenue is unreliable, Facebook is less of a viable source of income and traffic by the day and a job in media can mean having a paycheck one day and scrambling to make a living the next.

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