FishbowlNY has confirmed layoffs and pay cuts for writers at the blogs Gawker, Gizmodo and Jezebel. Gawker editor Sheila McClear and Jezebel editorial assistant Maria-Mercedes Lara have been let go, Gawker weekend editor Alex Carnevale’s month-to-month contract was not re-upped*, and three other editors at Jezebel are being made into part-time employees. At Gizmodo, Gawker Media’s top traffic-getter, reporter Benny Goldman was laid off.
One recently fired staffer said Gawker Media head Nick Denton “will lay off a few at a time — that way it is quieter.” Some affected employees were told that the cuts are part of a larger strategy at the company, but Denton has been doing so much consolidating that it’s hard to tell if we’ve seen the last reductions there or if more of the company’s sites will also trim staff before the new year.
In mid-November, Denton announced that he was selling the Consumerist site and consolidating tech-blog Valleywag into Gawker.com. Since then, freelance budgets throughout the company have been slashed and editors and contributors at the sci-fi blog io9 and Gawker.com were laid off. Last week, video assistant Nick McGlynn was laid off after more than a year at Gawker. All of this comes on the heels of the massive layoffs in early October when Gawker got rid of 19 employees. That same month, Gawker got rid of pageview bonuses and didn’t tell the writers until the end of the month. The situation caused Gawker.com editor Sheila McClear to blog about walking off the job for a day.
Denton hasn’t been shy about how worried he is about the future of online media. One day before announcing the Consumerist sale and the layoffs at Valleywag, he posted a doomsday scenario of a “decline of up to 40 percent in advertising spending” on his blog. Other analysts such as JP Morgan’s Imran Khan say that growth will drop off, but they don’t forecast any major drop in online advertising revenue. Top-tier blogs like Gawker should also see less of a decrease in spending than lesser-known blogs.
Denton’s contention that most industry observers are underestimating the recession could be correct, but Gawker Media’s revenue is currently up from last year. The decline in ad spending would have to be at least as big as Denton predicts to offset the company’s recent growth. Gawker’s traffic has also steadily improved over the last year. One has to wonder, as former Gawker editor Choire Sicha recently did in the LA Times, why Denton doesn’t seem willing to invest in his company even if the economic crisis doesn’t let up.
*12:07 p.m.: This post was updated to clarify Carnevale’s employment status.