Just two years ago, Mode Media founder and chief executive Samir Arora described his Silicon Valley startup (formerly known as Glam Media) as "a pioneer of native advertising and content marketing" and boasted that after just 10 years, it had grown to become "the seventh largest U.S. media company, reaching 50 percent of the U.S. digital population."
Thursday evening, The Wall Street Journal reported the lifestyle content company once valued at $1 billion had ceased operations, leaving a network of content creator "partners" owed tens of thousands of dollars.
Crissy Page, an Ohio-based writer who served as a contributing editor for Mode Media's parenting vertical, Tend, says the company owes her $17,000. Page said the shutdown came without any warning.
"Work was ongoing right up until the last moment," she said. "I was receiving feedback about content for clients as recently as two days ago, which tells me that the account managers had no idea that the doors would be closing."
Calls to Mode late Thursday went unanswered. Page said she reached one company contact at home and had a conversation that left her with little hope of ever being paid. "She told me that all employee email accounts were immediately cut off when they sent people home," Page said.
The company has pulled some of its content off the web, along with access to financial documents Mode Media's content partners used to track what they were owed. "Personally, I did not see this coming," said writer Jaleesa Howard. "However, many of us are now able to put pieces together based on what we've noticed over a few months or longer."
"I had stopped doing work for them but was still waiting on $2,000 worth of payments due," said blogger Melissa Garcia, who said problems getting paid started in May. "I work very hard at what I do, and I put a lot of time and effort into it. I am reaching out to the brands privately to see if they can help."
By August, some Mode Media partners had taken to Twitter to try and reach the company for answers about getting paid for their work.
— Talaia (@wholetastes) August 13, 2016
@ModeMedia It'd be fantastic if someone on your end would respond to emails … better yet, pay what is still owed.
— Rachel Currier (@bakedbyrachel) August 16, 2016
Blogger Lisa Koivu, who writes about blog monetization at her site Oh, She Blogs!, believes freelancers owed money by Mode Media "will likely never get paid." Koivu says freelancers "go to the very bottom of the list when a company files for bankruptcy."
Clare Brown Meneely, a blogger who had worked with Mode Media for several months, told Adweek she suspects "every single blogger still with the network is owed something," from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. "In the future, I plan to skip shady blogging networks entirely and work directly with brands," she said. "It's a sad day in the blogging world."