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Vice Media Sets Hiring Freeze, Looks to Reduce Staff by Up to 15%

Vice Media, under recently installed CEO Nancy Dubuc, is in for some belt-tightening.

The company, looking to cut costs amid a revenue slowdown, has instituted a hiring freeze and is aiming to reduce the size of its employee base over the next year, sources confirmed. Vice is hoping to avoid layoffs per se, aiming to hit headcount-reduction targets by attrition — that is, by not hiring replacements for staffers who exit.

Vice’s workforce-reduction plans were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, the company is looking to trim 10%-15% of its staff. A source familiar with the company said there’s no actual percentage Vice is targeting for the reduced headcount.

Dubuc, speaking last week at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, said Vice will become profitable again within the next fiscal year. The CEO noted that Vice was profitable a few years ago, before it invested heavily in the launch of the Viceland cable channel and expanding internationally.

In addition to the hiring freeze, Dubuc is planning to consolidate Vice’s roughly one dozen vertical sites (which the company calls “channels”), which include Motherboard, Broadly, Noisey, Vice Sports and Waypoint. It’s not entirely clear how many of the separate subject-focused sites could be naturally combined, so Vice may end up simply shutting some of them down or folding them into its broadest channel, Vice News. Two years ago, Vice’s then-CEO and co-founder Shane Smith had touted the launch of new channels as a big growth initiative.

The Brooklyn-based youth-skewing media company has been through staff cuts before. In July 2017, Vice cut around 2% of its 3,000 employees across multiple departments while at the same time expanding internationally and boosting video production.

The latest cost-cutting move comes as Vice’s revenue has flatlined. In 2018, the company internally projects revenue to be between $600 million and $650 million, flat with 2017, the Journal reported. Vice is expecting to lose over $50 million this year, although that’s an improvement over its loss of over $100 million last year, per the WSJ.

While Vice isn’t engaging in layoffs at this point, the company’s lack of growth and the new cost-cutting measures surely can’t be good for morale. Vice recently had 220 unfilled positions it was seeking to fill, prior to the hiring freeze, the Journal reported.

Dubuc, former CEO of A+E Networks, was tapped as CEO of Vice in the wake of a sexual-harassment scandal at the company that has resulted in the exit or firing of several execs. Co-founder Shane Smith has shifted into a new role as executive chairman.

As part of the Dubuc regime at Vice, president Andrew Creighton has left the company following the New York Times’ report that he paid an ex-Vice employee to settle a harassment claim. Vice previously said an independent review found the harassment claim “lacked merit” but was suspending him while his employment was under review.

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