2020’s U.S. Media Layoffs Are Already Nearing Record Highs

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The takeaways

  • U.S. media job layoffs are at 11,027 for the year so far, mainly due to coronavirus pressures and falling revenues.
  • The losses are already on par with 2018’s 11,878 and 2008’s record of 14,265.
  • Layoffs have been, or are expected to be announced by Comcast, Vox, the BBC and the New York Times, some of whom are also advertising new media roles.

What happened?

Between 2009 – 2019, the U.S. news industry employed 27,000 less editors, reporters, photographers and videographers. This year, COVID-19 has placed severe financial pressures on media organisations and advertisers, as well as the global economy. So far, over 200 U.S. media groups and newsrooms have taken hard measures in response.

Women’s Wear Daily reported that a survey by recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas tallied 11,027 media layoffs for the year to date. This represents a 170% rise from 4,087 in 2019’s first six months and 116% more than June 2018’s 5,104 job cuts. At 11,878 cuts, 2018 saw the highest rate of news job losses since 2008’s 14,265. Within the pandemic’s first few months, the New York Times estimated almost 36,000 news jobs were either cut, furloughed or reduced in salaries.

Last week, Vox Media announced plans to lay off 6% of its staff, saying “the second half of the year will not rebound anywhere near our pre-COVID forecasts.” The Guardian also announced 180 job cuts after a $31.6million drop in revenues. The same day, the BBC revealed 70 job losses, having cut 450 news roles earlier this month. Reportedly, Comcast is the next major media company announcing cuts. Its subsidiary NBCUniversal previously announced 20% and 3% pay cuts for senior management and top-earning staff, respectively.

Mixed fortunes

Advertising revenues declined for the news and media industries even before mandatory lockdowns were introduced. Revenues also fell due to the postponing of live events, including traditional sports and esports. Emerging solutions include virtual events, free content and affordable subscriptions. Google is also establishing a payment program for selected news providers.

The Media Nut states that organisations are still posting job listings despite high layoff numbers. Companies named include Business Insider, the New York Times, Vox and NBC News.

For more information, please see Poynter’s regularly updated article on newsroom employment.

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