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Aug. 3, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
Business Models

Upworthy just laid off 31 people. The question remains why.

“An incredible team remains, and our mission is as relevant now as ever.”

Good Media Group, which owns viral site Upworthy and Good Magazine, cut at least 31 employees yesterday. The layoffs were first announced on Thursday afternoon in a tweet from editor-in-chief Liz Heron, who said she is also resigning.

Upworthy CEO Charlie Wilkie also resigned Thursday, and Upworthy cofounder Eli Pariser said in a tweeted statement that he’d resigned from his board position last week.

So, why the layoffs? Former Upworthy/Good CEO Ben Goldhirsh — who left the company almost a year ago per The Wrap but still lists his position as CEO on his Twitter bio — offered thoughts: “Top line is that these cuts are part of a restructure to centralize leadership in Los Angeles. Given what’s afoot in society we need to be our strongest to do as much good as possible. The operation needed to evolve. Nothing is shutting down. Quite the contrary, the team that is operating the business going forward is pissed off for greatness.”

“Good and Upworthy have always been a force for social change — working with our communities, world-changing brand partners, and amazing team members over the years despite an increasingly challenging media environment,” Max Schorr, who was by the board to serve as CEO of Good MEdia Group, said in a statement. “[On Thursday], we had to make the hard decision to say goodbye to esteemed colleagues. An incredible team remains, and our mission is as relevant now as ever.”

There had reportedly not been indications that layoffs were coming. These are not, however, the first layoffs that Upworthy has seen. In 2015, the site decided to pivot to video. In 2016, it laid off 14 of 97 employees. (“Video is the future of digital advertising — it’s where all of the money is going, and an awful lot of the attention is going,” Pariser said in a memo at the time.)

The company continued its focus on do-good video. “A lot of publishers try be everything to everyone,” then-editorial director Amy O’Leary told Nieman Lab at the time. “We’re really good at staying focused on our mission and telling the kinds of stories that we can uniquely tell.” A year later, Upworthy merged with Good Worldwide, and 20 more people were laid off.

Upworthy isn’t alone. Many digital-only media sites, struggling to compete for advertising dollars against Facebook and Google, have seen layoffs in recent months, including Vice, Mashable, Vox, and BuzzFeed (though it’s also hiring more).

POSTED     Aug. 3, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
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