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Verizon Media layoff speaks to struggles in media business

Andy Serwer
Editor in Chief

Verizon Media Group will be laying off 7% of its workforce, which amounts to some 800 employees. The company, a division of Verizon Communications which owns properties such as HuffPost, AOL, and TechCrunch—as well as Yahoo, including Yahoo Finance—has had a tough time growing and competing against the likes of Facebook and Google for online ad dollars.

"These were difficult decisions, and we will ensure that our colleagues are treated with respect and fairness, and given the support they need," Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in an email to employees, which a Verizon spokesperson provided.

"Our goal is to create the best experiences for our consumers and the best platforms for our customers. This marks a strategic step toward better execution of our plans for growth and innovation into the future,” the spokesperson added in an email.

Though that 800 employees is less than one half of one percent of Verizon’s total workforce of 152,000, the media business is of course always high-profile and attracts attention. The move is also worth noting because it speaks to Verizon’s interest and management of its media business, which it cobbled together over the past five years with the acquisition of first AOL in 2015 and Yahoo in 2017. These are smaller plays than those made by Verizon’s arch-rival AT&T, which has made a much bigger bet on the media biz by buying DirecTV in 2015 and Time Warner last year.

The media business has been rife with layoffs recently. Just Wednesday, besides the Verizon Media announcement, news broke that Buzzfeed is reportedly laying off 15% of its workforce and that Gannett is cutting jobs at its newspapers.

It’s unclear exactly which Verizon Media Group properties, which was until recently called Oath, will be affected by the layoff and to what degree.

According to the Verizon spokesperson “These decisions have been made after an exhaustive review of all products and major platforms that are currently in Verizon Media’s portfolio—customer products, ad products, platform features, partnerships and data centers—to focus the business and realign teams across Verizon Media and Verizon.” The spokesperson also noted that Verizon Media had made gains in native advertising, and had a new partnership with Microsoft and had the NFL on Yahoo Sports. The spokesman pointed out that “Yahoo Finance recently expanded to 8 hours of live bell-to-bell coverage,” and has had strong mobile growth.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @serwer.

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