On Friday morning, Vox Media, which owns SB Nation, The Verge, Eater, Polygon, and New York Magazinealong with Group Nine brands like The Dodo, PopSugar and Thrillist, announce It will lay off seven percent of its workers, about 130 employees.
The dust has yet to settle with this round of layoffs, but it’s already clear that the layoffs have hit SB Nation and its team sites hard. An unknown number of employees have been laid off at the SB Nation head office (not that there aren’t many left after the Vox Media layoff SB Nation burned down in 2020). In addition, multiple sources have told Defector that all but six of SB Nation hockey’s sites will no longer be supported by Vox Media, and most, if not all, MLS team sites will also be cut. Sources say that Vox Media has taken down almost all episodes of SB Nation podcasts, too. (to update: Vox Media spokeswoman Lauren Starke emailed Defector saying, “Although we have some contracts expiring on February 28th, there are still MLS sites and podcasts that will continue to support SB Nation after that date.” It did not say the number and did not respond to a question about how many SB Nation workers have been laid off.)
The workers who run SB Nation team sites are mostly independent contractors, which means they only make small salaries for what would amount to a full-time position. Many of them have been doing the work of building fan communities for years for little or no money.
Steve Driver was the only full-time employee of SB Nation hockey prior to her layoff today. Driver oversaw all 34 of SB Nation’s hockey team sites, one for each NHL team, plus one each for women’s hockey and college hockey. Driver said that she and other team site workers put together by self-reporting that there are six hockey sites remaining, her managers feel conflicted about continuing their employment when several of their co-workers have been terminated.
“We feel like we got punched in the gut today,” Driver Devictor said.
Layoffs at the team site are hard for the workers to afford since they cost Vox Media little money. The cost of the hockey sites combined was pennies compared to the company’s $1 billion valuation.
“Smaller sites would have $200-$500 in profits per month to distribute between the site manager and some contributors, and on the higher end of the scale our larger sites would have $2,500-$4,000 to spend on contributors,” Driver said.
“What we’ve been able to do with a little bit of support and resources and just grit and the fact that we have a passion for hockey is incredible,” Driver said, adding that while she has some contingency plans, she will take the weekend to reset before considering her next steps. Similarly, other SB Nation workers are trying to determine what will happen next for the communities they have built.
a Mail On the Japers’ circuit, SB Nation’s Washington Capital team website said:
All we’ve been told so far is that the site will not be managed or financially supported by Vox Media, and that its contract agreements with the company will expire at the end of February.
More information is coming about the future of this site and all others affected by this news, and we are currently exploring our options while we await further updates. Nothing has been finalized and we have no immediate plans to shut down the Jabbers Rink completely. Right now, our priority is to continue to provide coverage of the team and sports we love, and to continue to maintain the great community we’ve built here over the years.
a Mail At Blueshirt Banter, the site for the SB Nation’s New York Rangers team, John Ness, the SB Nation’s website manager, said the sites were left in the dark about what would happen next.
I don’t have much information at the moment, other than an extensive email that John Ness has sent out to dozens of site managers across multiple leagues, but it looks like Blueshirt Banter will no longer be monetized by SB Nation starting in March.
I’m not sure what that means for the future of this amazing site and community, but it probably won’t be good.
I will probably have a lot more to say in the coming days as more information is released (John Ness has not yet responded to my email requesting clarification on the current situation) but for now I want to thank you all for the love, support and consumption of this website and the people who They made it buzzy for over a decade and made it one of the best SBN Hockey Family websites by almost every metric.
It’s a sad code for the Sports Network and the exploited workers who run them. As I reported in 2017, SB Nation, which started Vox Media, was built on having people populate hundreds of websites, for which investment money was collected and ads sold, for little or no money. This exploitative business model has been the basis of multiple federal class action lawsuits Settled in 2020 for millions of dollars.