Jezebel, the female-focused news outlet founded in 2007, is the latest victim of the media industry’s struggle to turn a profit in a troubled advertising climate.
Jim Spanfeller, chief executive of parent company G/O Media, announced the decision to suspend the site’s operations in a message to staff members Thursday.
“Few decisions over the course of my career have been as excruciating, and I want to make clear this is in NO WAY a reflection on the Jezebel editorial team,” he wrote.
“We have been operating over the last few quarters with an eye towards efficiency and being budget conscious. I had been hoping that by doing so we could see our way through these dark times in our industry,” he continued. “And indeed, we held out far longer than most. But we can hold out no longer.”
Spanfeller said that he’d been looking for someone to acquire Jezebel, but that none of those conversations with potential buyers had been fruitful. However, he said that he has not “given up” on a buyer coming through.
He also revealed that G/O Media is undergoing editorial restructuring. In total, 23 people are being laid off, including Jezebel’s staff.
Jezebel ― whose tagline was “Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth” ― was launched by Gawker Media 16 years ago. It propelled some beloved media personalities into wider fame, including New York Times bestselling author Jia Tolentino. A Jezebel piece from 2007 described the website as “a blog for women that will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking more the serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our highly sophisticated brand of sex joke.”
The GMG Union representing Jezebel said in a statement Thursday that it’s “hardly surprised at G/O Media and Jim Spanfeller’s inability to run our website and their cruel decision to shutter it.”
“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,” the statement continued.
The site was one of six media properties that Univision Communications acquired in 2016 before selling them off to a private equity firm in 2019, leading to the formation of G/O Media.
Staff members have been calling attention to turmoil at Jezebel and other G/O Media properties for months. In August, the GMG Union spoke out about Spanfeller’s business management, saying he and other company leaders “focus their time and resources on misguided initiatives like ... [artificial intelligence] generated articles and an ill-conceived writer ‘scorecard’ that promotes quantity over quality.”
Laura Bassett, who was Jezebel’s editor-in-chief, announced her departure that same month, blaming the company’s treatment of its staff.
“I have reluctantly resigned from Jezebel, because the company that owned us refused to treat my staff with basic human decency,” said Bassett, who is also a former HuffPost staffer.