Vox Media

There have been plenty of layoffs and furloughs at various sports media outlets amidst the revenue downturns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the latest furloughs come from Vox Media (parent company to SB Nation and Banner Society on the sports side). Anthony Ha of TechCrunch writes that the company is furloughing 9 percent of its total employees for three months beginning May 1, including editorial staff at SB Nation and Curbed:

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.

As per CNN’s Kerry Flynn, these furloughs will impact around 100 employees:

Here’s Bankoff’s memo, via Ben Mullin of The Wall Street Journal (click on tweets one, two or three for larger versions):

Here’s a statement from the Vox union pushing back on the furloughs, but saying they won guarantees that there won’t be further furloughs or layoffs through July 31, that those furloughed will still have health benefits, and that furloughed employees can’t be replaced by contractors:

But these are still major furloughs, and they’re hitting particularly hard on the editorial side in sports, which Bankoff includes in his list of “revenue areas where short-term demand will be lower.” Here are some of the people who have tweeted about being impacted by this:

SB Nation also opted not to renew some contracts, as with NFL draft writer Dan Kadar:

The logic of concentrating furloughs in “revenue areas where short-term demand will be lower” is interesting, especially when that comes to editorial coverage of sports. Yes, there aren’t many sports going on right now, but there’s still quite a bit to write about, especially when it comes to the upcoming NFL draft, the XFL shutdown and bankruptcy,  various leagues’ discussions of reopening, the WNBA draft, and sports networks’ coverage of archival events. And many at SB Nation and Banner Society have done a good job of finding interesting angles to explore in lieu of live sports, from COVID-19 shutdowns’ impact on NCAA athletic budgets to discussions of the best NBA team to never win a title to evaluations of “Position U” draft arguments to breakdowns of past accomplishments like Lionel Messi’s 73-goal season in 2011-12. So it’s not like the sports people have been doing nothing. And while the May-July furloughs will kick in after the WNBA and NFL drafts, they’ll impact coverage of leagues’ plans to resume play, coverage of the NHL and NBA drafts (if those occur on time), and more.

Also, while “short-term demand” may be lower without live sports (and without advertisers looking to be placed specifically on sports coverage), there are probably going to be some long-term impacts from Vox cutting back on sports so significantly for three months. While advertising revenues are way down at the moment, they aren’t necessarily going to be down forever. And there’s a big captive audience out there right now with many people working less hours. And some people who normally read Vox sports coverage may find other places to go in the interim, and may not return after the furloughs. Yes, there will still be some Vox sports coverage even amidst these furloughs, but they’re furloughing a lot of talented people. They’re far from alone in making cuts in the face of COVID-19 revenue declines, but these are some notable cuts, and they could have impacts on Vox’s sports coverage even after the furloughs expire.

[TechCrunch]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.