Gawker is shutting down again.
TheWrap confirmed with Bustle Digital Group Wednesday that it is shuttering the pop culture site less than two years after relaunching it. Gawker’s editor-in-chief Leah Finnegan tweeted the news, calling it “a staggering shame.”
Gawker was relaunched in July 2021 under the BDG umbrella after CEO Bryan Goldberg acquired the site’s assets for $1.35 million at a 2018 bankruptcy auction. The site had been dormant since 2016 when its then-parent company lost in court over a lawsuit brought by wrestling personality Hulk Hogan.
On Wednesday, BDG Media’s CEO announced the company would lay off 8% of its workforce. Bustle rebranded to BDG Media in 2021 ahead of a planned blank check merger IPO, but in an internal memo obtained and reviewed by Axios, the downsizing appears correlated with a “search for a buyer or potential liquidity partner.”
On Gawker, Goldberg explained to Axios it was “essentially an early-stage startup” and his decision came down to “either triple-down on the investment or pull back and focus on our other properties.
“And, unfortunately, now just isn’t the moment to push millions of dollars into a pre-monetization product,” Goldberg added.
Goldberg launched BDG Media a decade ago and is set on recalibrating amid economic headwinds impacting the digital publishing industry. The company’s websites across fashion and lifestyle were brought in through acquisitions. Gawker was resurrected in 2018 after the snarky media gossip site went belly-up.
“After experiencing a financially strong 2022, we have found ourselves facing a surprisingly difficult Q1 of 2023,” the memo said. “BDG has made the decision to reprioritize some of our investments that better position the Company for the direction we see the industry moving.”
Responding to the news of Gawker’s shuttering and BDG’s overall layoffs, the Writers Guild of America issued a strongly worded statement, obtained by TheWrap. The statement demands an opportunity to bargain over BDG’s layoff decision, noting it’s “something the company is obligated to do under federal labor law.”
The union was “appalled by BDG’s decision to lay off nearly 40 of our unit members,” the statement reads. “This is the third round of layoffs over the last six months that have effectively led to halving the original unit from 200 workers to just above 100 workers. Today’s latest round of layoffs, and the closure of Gawker, came after more than two years of attempting to bargain a first contract with BDG, and on the heels of more recent bargaining dates being outright canceled by the Company.”
“The decisions BDG made today come with real-world consequences for the workers who lost their livelihood,” WGAE continued. “The majority of these layoffs decimate the jobs of Part-Time workers in the unit – workers who were already paid below industry standards and received no other benefits from the Company except the accrued sick time that is obligatory under most state laws. Tough economic times and rising inflation are already creating greater hardships for our members, and we expect the Company to be more generous in its severance than it has been in previous rounds of layoffs.”
The union added it “will continue to press for a contract that both protects our workers’ rights and guarantees a severance that acknowledges their labor and the worth they create for their company.”