Vox Media is cutting pay and furloughing 9% of employees

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Vox Media is making a number of cutbacks in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to Vox itself, the digital media company owns properties including Curbed, Eater, Recode, SB Nation and The Verge — and it acquired New York Magazine last year.

In a staff memo obtained by TechCrunch (and others), CEO Jim Bankoff outlined several cost-cutting measures but no outright layoffs.

The measures including furloughing 9% of employees from May 1 to July 31. Bankoff said this will include some employees in sales, sales support, production, events, IT and office operations, along with editorial staff at SB Nation and Curbed. He also said affected employees will retain their company health insurance during this period.

In addition, the company is freezing wages through the end of 2020, pausing its 401K match, reducing hours for 1% of employees and cutting salaries during the same three-month furlough period for employees making more than $130,000 per year — the cuts start at 15%, with Bankoff and Vox Media President Pam Wasserstein taking a 50% salary reduction.

In explaining the layoffs, Bankoff pointed to the broader economic collapse caused by the pandemic, with the dramatic reduction in ad spending, which has led many other media companies to announce layoffs and/or salary reductions.

Bankoff wrote:

We’ve already seen a decline in our business. Weakness in March, driven by the cancellations of SXSW and March Madness, the collapse of travel, sports and fashion-related advertising, and other factors led us to miss our revenue goals by several million dollars in the first quarter; the impact will be significantly greater in the second quarter. While expressing the severity of this decline, it’s also important to know that we will rebound. We don’t know when or to what extent a rebound will occur. I’d be overjoyed if it happened quickly, but we cannot bet our company on these hopes.

Update: The Vox Media Union has been tweeting in response to the news, painting the current plan as the result of negotiation:

While we appreciate Vox Media talking to us in good faith, we don’t agree with the company’s decision to furlough employees — especially after hundreds of us told the company we were willing to take wider pay cuts to save all jobs. So we fought for strong protections. We won a guarantee of no layoffs, no additional furloughs, and no additional pay cuts through July 31, along with enhanced severance for any layoffs that occur in August-December. The company also agreed to reduce the number of furloughs.