Vox Media preparing round of layoffs as business fails to improve amid coronavirus pandemic

Key Points
  • Vox Media has informed its unions that it plans to cut jobs as advertising revenue has slumped in the first and second quarters.
  • Vox Media is preparing staff cuts to both unionized and non-union workers.
  • Vox was 40% off its revenue forecast for the second quarter and plans to miss its full-year target by 25%
Jim Bankoff, chairman and chief executive officer of Vox Media Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Vox Media, the owner of media properties including New York Magazine, The Verge, SBNation and Eater, has informed its worker unions to prepare for company-wide layoffs, according to people familiar with the matter.

Vox spoke with union leaders Monday to inform them of their plan to cut staff, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Vox furloughed about 100 employees in April, or 9% of its staff, until July 31 as Covid-19 affected advertising budgets.

Many of the furloughed workers who haven't already taken buyouts will be laid off, according to a person familiar with the matter. These employees primarily work for parts of Vox that were especially hit hard by the Pandemic, such as SBNation, Curbed and the company's events group. There are likely to be additional job cuts, two people said. 

Both the Writers Guild of America, East, which represents about 350 of Vox's 1,200 employees, and NewsGuild of New York, which represents New York Magazine employees, are meeting with executives this week, two of the people said. Vox hopes to resolve those discussions by Friday, one of the people said. 

Vox reached profitability in 2019 and planned to become even more profitable in 2020. While the company hit its revenue targets for the first two months of 2020, Vox was 40% off its forecast for the second quarter and plans to miss its full-year target by 25%, said two of the people. Chief Executive Jim Bankoff held an all-hands meeting last week outlining the company's overall struggles while also highlighting some bright spots, such as podcast revenue bouncing back to pre-Covid levels, said the people, who asked not to be named because the meeting's details were private. 

Unlike some of its peers, Vox attempted to avoid layoffs in April, hoping the business outlook would improve. Media companies across the U.S. have had to cut salary and staff during the coronavirus pandemic to make up for lost advertising revenue. 

Union leaders have asked Vox representatives for more data to back up the need for layoffs by Wednesday, said the people. A Vox spokesperson declined to comment. 

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Vox Media.

Vox Media's Jim Bankoff on the acquisition of New York Magazine