Tobi Bauckhage, co-founder of entertainment-fandom site Movie Pilot, said there “there will be no current changes in staffing” with the sale of the site’s parent company to France’s Webedia — which, while technically true, isn’t the whole story.
Starting in September and into October, Movie Pilot’s editorial teams in Berlin and L.A. were informed that they would be phased out, with the group in Venice Beach, Calif., staying on through the end of the year. At least 20 employees — and upwards of 80 or more — have lost their jobs or will soon be let go, according to current and former staffers.
In addition, in late October, Creators Media told contributors that it was shutting down the Creator platform (creators.co), which had been its program to enlist freelancers and “turn fans into influencers.” Movie Pilot, which had worked with hundreds of contributors, told them that as of Nov. 30, 2017, the Creator program and all of its associated products and services would be shut down.
Bauckhage (pictured above), CEO of Creators Media, said in a statement to Variety that the layoffs at the company — which runs Movie Pilot and the Super News video channel — were part of a shift away from text-based content to video.
The company had to take the “painful” step of restructuring “to adjust to the bleak reality of [being] a midsized publisher in the 2017 market and ecosystem,” Bauckhage wrote in an email. He declined to say how many staffers were let go; according to Bauckhage, about 50 people currently work for Creators Media.
The layoffs at Movie Pilot were the result of the company moving “from a text-based publishing model to video,” according to Bauckhage, adding that the staff cuts had “nothing to do with the [Webedia] deal.” Instead, the layoffs were “a reaction to the fact that Facebook has changed their algorithms in favor of video instead of referral traffic over the last 12 months and we were losing money in the publishing bit of our business.”
Reid Jones, who started as a freelance journalist for Movie Pilot when he was 15 years old, said his posts have generated nearly 12 million views over the last four years. “Many of us are sad, angry, and really destroyed by our loss of an incredible writing outlet that the site gave us as well as feeling pretty betrayed by the site for cutting the community” as the company pivoted to video content, he wrote in an email.
While some staffers told Variety that they were told MoviePilot.com would be shut down at the end of 2017, Bauckhage said that isn’t correct. In an FAQ on the creators.co site, the company says, “Moviepilot.com will continue to live on as it is now, though we’re still discussing amongst ourselves what will happen to it in the new year.”
The company’s co-founders, Bauckhage and Jon Handschin, retain equity stakes in Creators Media following the sale of majority control to Webedia.
According to one former Movie Pilot staffer, “Jon and Tobi have been pulling bait-and-switches like this on employees for years. Not being honest, hiding huge changes in the wings, not being terribly concerned with who they slough off or how.”