MSN Entertainment Lays Off an Army of Freelancers

Per a group email blasted out without warning today to an unknown number of freelancers, the gig at MSN Entertainment is up. Effective October 1, the Microsoft content arm will no longer be in a position to pay all sorts of talented, creative people.

The news broke this afternoon on Twitter when several members of the MSN Movies freelance team confirmed they had been let go. Contributors said to be affected include James Rocchi, William B. Goss, Don Kaye, Kate Erbland and Glenn Kenny. Writers for other MSN Entertainment blogs, like Page-turner‘s Mary Pols, have also begun to confirm via Twitter that they are out of a job.

The text of the email sent out by MSN exec Kent Laird has been obtained by FishbowlNY and is included below. We’ve separately reached out to MSN for confirmation of the total number of freelancers and sites affected.

What makes this especially hard to bear in today’s marketplace is that MSN Entertainment paid freelancers well, and on time. As far as the complaints across Twitter about MSN’s decision to notify freelancers via group email, all of the alternatives – individual phone calls, a conference call, individual emails – come with their own, separate liabilities. Surely though, Laird could have easily avoided the needless overlap with the anniversary date of September 11.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, about 2 months ago, Microsoft announced a restructuring plan to move from being a software company to a services and devices company. A few immediate changes followed for us including a new VP overseeing all online services, including MSN, who has a vastly different vision for our Web site than anything in the past 15 years. Fast forward a few weeks and our CEO announced his retirement. Things are changing super-fast at Microsoft and those changes have quickly made their way to our work that we do at MSN and at MSN Entertainment specifically.

Unfortunately, I am writing you to let you know that effective 10/1/2013 our freelance budget has gone away entirely. I wish I could say it’s been lowered substantially and we’d just be reducing the work we are doing, but to be honest, it has been taken away and is at $0 for the remainder of the fiscal year. I know many of you contribute consistently on a daily basis or write columns/features and attend junkets for us regularly, and sadly those will all end as well. While we aren’t quite sure yet of some final direction of the site, I am sure that I speak for everyone on the team when I say that working with each of you has been a pleasure and we will truly miss all the interactions we have had.


1. I have been notified that all PO’s will be closed by October 1st. That means you must invoice me before that time or you won’t get paid for work you’ve already completed. My management says there will be no grace period, so please make sure all invoices are in by 9/27. Even if you’re pre-billing something for September.

2. All on-going assignments are effectively cancelled as of 9/30/2013. Blogging, columns, recapping, reviews, etc…

3. My team and I, and others on the Entertainment team, will be reaching out to industry contacts, studios, networks, publicists to let them know of our shift. In the meantime, please feel free to put them in touch with us should you get coverage requests on behalf of MSN.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions any of you may have, but can tell you, regrettably, there isn’t any exceptions that can be made to any of this information. This is the budget we’ve been given and unfortunately the news I have to pass on.

I want to thank every one of you for your contributions over the years you’ve worked with MSN Entertainment. The site has become a world-class entertainment destination and we’ve had many successes, much due to the original content that we have run and promoted on the site that you all contributed to. I hope you know that we all know we couldn’t have found the success we had without your amazing abilities. I sincerely hope that things will shift again soon and that we can reach out to work together again soon.

Thank you again and please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.