Well, it’s not like there are any events going on that would drive traffic to a feminist website or anything:
Jezebel was indefinitely suspended on Thursday as major layoffs hit G/O Media, The Daily Beast has learned.
The layoffs will affect 23 people, CEO Jim Spanfeller confirmed in a memo to staff on Thursday, and G/O Media editorial director Merrill Brown has also exited the company.
“Unfortunately, our business model and the audiences we serve across our network did not align with Jezebel’s,” Spanfeller wrote in the memo. “And when that became clear, we undertook an expansive search for a new, perhaps better home that might ensure Jezebel a path forward. It became a personal mission of Lea Goldman, who worked tirelessly on the project, talking with over two dozen potential buyers. It is a testament to Jezebel’s heritage and bonafides that so many players engaged us. Still, despite every effort, we could not find Jez a new home.”
Jezebel employees were informed of the shutdown during a meeting Wednesday morning, a staffer impacted by the shuttering told The Daily Beast, and they immediately lost access to their Slack and Google email accounts afterward.
“We are devastated though hardly surprised at G/O Media and Jim Spanfeller’s inability to run our website and their cruel decision to shutter it. Jezebel has been a pillar of fearless journalism and important cultural commentary since 2007 and made an indelible mark on the media landscape,” the Writers Guild of America-East, which represents G/O Media staffers, said in a statement, adding: “A well-run company would have moved away from an advertising model, but instead they are shuttering the brand entirely because of their strategic and commercial ineptitude. Jezebel was a good website.”
According to the newly laid-off employee, G/O Media editorial director Lea Goldman had reassured Jezebel staffers in recent weeks that Spanfeller was not looking to shutter the site, especially after the Axios report.
Goldman briefly addressed the staff in Thursday morning’s meeting, the source relayed, quickly announcing that the site would be suspended before handing the call off to a human-resources official and allegedly exiting the call.
“I overall think this was handled in a way that unfortunately felt more than a little insulting, given what now were clearly false reassurances a few weeks ago, an uncomfortable lack of transparency around the possible sale prospect, and then the nature of the meeting,” this now-ex staffer told The Daily Beast, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of professional reprisals. “I understand there’s no good way to do it, but saying a couple sentences and then leaving before addressing anything was hurtful and disappointing and dismissive.”
Following the news of Jezebel’s shuttering, the site’s former editor-in-chief Laura Bassett, who exited in August, wrote on Twitter: “I’m obviously boiling and have too much to say on this subject. But for now I’ll just say my heart is with the entire Jez staff who just got laid off, including incredible abortion reporters at a time when the beat couldn’t be more relevant to national politics.”
G/O Media has been rollicked by turmoil across its various publications this year, which include outlets such as Gizmodo, Jezebel, The Root, and Kotaku. It announced over the summer its plans to publish stories generated by AI, which resulted in stories that included false information that angered staffers across its verticals. The company, however, has continued its embrace of automation, shedding staffers at Gizmodo en Español in favor of automated translations.
JMM has a good thread about why to Private Equity Brain sustainable profitability isn’t necessarily enough:
3/ cld succeed. So why is it shuttering? Look at the public notice about how they looked for a buyer but couldn't find one. I bet that's true as far as it goes. But they were certainly looking for a cash out price. If you pay $5 million for a house you want your money …— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 9, 2023
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.