Jezebel, the sharp-edged feminist website founded at the height of the blogosphere era, is shutting down after 16 years, its parent company announced Thursday.
G/O Media said 23 staffers would be laid off, including Jezebel’s team, as part of a restructuring to cope with economic headwinds and a difficult digital advertising environment. The New York-based company also announced the departure of G/O Media editorial director Merrill Brown.
In a memo to the company, G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller said he made the “very, very difficult decision to suspend publication of Jezebel” after an unsuccessful search for a buyer for the website. Spanfeller praised Jezebel’s editorial team but said the company’s “business model and the audiences we serve across our network did not align with Jezebel’s.”
Jezebel was launched in 2007 by Gawker Media with Anna Holmes as its first editor-in-chief. It established itself as an influential voice in feminist commentary years before the explosion of the #Metoo movement pushed issues of gender and power to the forefront of mainstream media coverage. In 2019, Jezebel became part of the G/O Media portfolio, which also includes Gizmodo, Quartz, the Onion and the Root.
Digital publications have increasingly struggled in recent years in a competitive market for advertising. Spanfeller said U.S. economic growth has not translated into “the usual increase in marketing dollars” as high interest rates and global crises “have made advertisers more cautious about spending.”
Jezebel writers, however, blamed the shutdown on the parent company’s “strategic and commercial ineptitude,” in a statement released by their union, WGA East.
“We are devastated though hardly surprised at G/O Media and Jim Spanfeller’s inability to run our website and their cruel decision to shutter it,” the statement said. “The closure of Jezebel also underscores fundamental flaws in the ad-supported media model where concerns about ‘brand safety’ limit monetizing content about the biggest, most important stories of the day.”
The site’s shutdown comes two months after Jezebel’s interim Editor-in-Chief Laura Bassett resigned, accusing G/O in a tweet of failing “to treat my staff with basic human decency.” Jezebel’s current editor-in-chief, Lauren Tousignant, wrote in a tweet Thursday that she is angry and sad about the shutdown and would have more to say later.
In his memo, Spanfeller wrote that Jezebel’s closure is “in NO WAY a reflection on the Jezebel editorial team,” which he praised for their ”great work in difficult times,” singling out their “urgent, breakthrough coverage of reproductive rights in this post-Roe era.”