×

Demand Media Lays Off 15 in Wake of CEO Exit (Exclusive)

Chief innovation officer Byron Reese ousted at Santa Monica-based "content farm"

The resignation of chairman/CEO Richard Rosenblatt was just the beginning of turnover at Demand Media.

Just days after Rosenblatt, who was one of the founders of the Santa Monica-based digital-media company announced he was stepping down, all 15 members of the research and development unit at the company were laid off, including chief innovation officer Byron Reese, according to sources.

Demand reps did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The layoffs are just the latest troubling sign out of turbulence at Demand, which in just a few short years went from the darling of media circles for its low-cost approach to SEO-centric content production to a cautionary tale reduced to barely one-quarter of a market capitalization once valued near $2 billion.

Reese was seen as the architect of Demand’s SEO approach, which has been widely derided as turning the company into a “content farm” that flooded search engines with low-quality content. Google’s move to update its search algorithms in 2011 depressed Demand-generated content, a crushing blow to the company, which has tried to diversify into other businesses in the ensuing years.

Reese was the founder of PageWise, a company Rosenblatt acquired in 2007 that provided the basis for Demand’s SEO-centric strategies. He is a widely published futurist who has been featured in TED Talks and released a book earlier this year, “Infinite Progress: How Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Hunger, Poverty, and War.”

A bio page for Reese on Demand’s site has been removed, and he lists Demand as a previous employer on his LinkedIn page.

Most of the laid off employees, who were all in Reese’s unit, were based in Demand’s Austin, Tex., offices. Demand has approximately 700 employees.

Another of the company’s founders, Shawn Colo, was named interim CEO while its board searches for a replacement for Rosenblatt.

More Digital

  • Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Ends Long Strike Against Ad Agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty

    SAG-AFTRA has ended its 10-month strike against Bartle Bogle Hegarty after the advertising agency agreed to sign the union’s new commercials contract. The union instructed its 160,000 members in September not to accept any work for BBH, which had been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s commercials contracts since 1999. The strike came two weeks after BBH publicly [...]

  • FaceApp is displayed on an iPhone,

    SAG-AFTRA Warns Members About FaceApp Terms of Use

    SAG-AFTRA is warning its 160,000 members about the “overreaching and invasive” terms of use for the FaceApp mobile application. FaceApp, developed by Russian company Wireless Lab, uses neural network technology to automatically generate transformations of faces in photographs. The app can be used to make users appear older, younger, or change gender. The terms include [...]

  • J. Cole

    Apple Music Launches 'Rap Life' Playlist

    Apple Music announced the launch of “Rap Life,” a new global playlist focusing on contemporary rap artists and culture. It replaces the former “The A-List: Hip-Hop” playlist. Said Ebro Darden, Apple Music’s Global Editorial Head of Hip-Hop and R&B: “We flipped it to dig deeper into into the lifestyle [and to] keep pushing the culture [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    ARRI, Mobile TV Group Back New Venture Revitalizing Streamed Concerts

    A new venture looking to bring a fresh approach to live-streaming concerts has gotten the backing of hardware heavyweights ARRI and Mobile TV Group. Wide+Close is launching with the mandate of shooting music performances with film cameras and cinematographers in order to give the content a more cinematic feel. “We want to take concert filming [...]

  • Fortnite Battle Royale

    How 'Fortnite' Fans Can Earn Loot by Watching YouTube Videos

    Epic Games and YouTube have teamed up with a special offer for “Fortnite” players — giving players of the popular battle-royale game rewards when they watch “Fortnite”-premiered content on the video platform. The catch: You have to watch at least 20 minutes of “Fortnite” special content or live esports broadcasts to receive the loot. Under [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content