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Wired Very Quietly Laid Off Five Journalists Last Week

Is this a sign of more to come at Condé Nast?

Wired magazine laid off five employees last week. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25 )
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

On Thursday, Wired magazine called an all-hands meeting on the day its newsroom moved to a different floor of One World Trade Center, the headquarters of its parent company Condé Nast. At the meeting, editor-in-chief Nick Thompson announced that the magazine was cutting five positions, sources who were present told Slate. Then the entire staff was told to vacate the floor and move to their new offices.

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The journalists let go included senior features editor Alexis Sobel Fitts and Brian Raftery, a senior writer covering film and TV. Also laid off, per her post on Twitter, was digital producer Lydia Belanger, who had joined the magazine just two and a half months earlier. Sources confirm two members of the art staff were eliminated as well.

A Wired spokesperson confirmed to me that there had been layoffs but declined to confirm the names or the head count, saying only that it was a “small number.” A spokesperson for Condé Nast said last week’s layoffs were limited to Wired, with no other Condé Nast properties affected. But they come amid well-documented turmoil at Condé, whose CEO announced his resignation in November, just three months after he outlined an aggressive plan to return the company to profitability.

These appear to be Wired’s first editorial layoffs since Thompson took over as editor from Scott Dadich in January 2017 and embarked on a project to reinvigorate the tech-focused magazine. In November, the magazine did lose a team of five people who were working on its Snapchat Discover channel as part of a round of Snapchat-related cuts at Condé Nast.

In February 2018, Wired set up a paywall to its website, joining a trend of media companies prioritizing digital subscriptions over online advertising. Thompson, who came to Wired from the New Yorker, said the move was about shifting the magazine’s incentives from Facebook virality and page views to journalism that’s valuable to readers.

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Given Conde Nast’s corporate upheaval, it’s quite possible these cuts at Wired are part of the broader restructuring at its parent company, even though they weren’t announced as such. That may be why no source contacted for this story agreed to be identified, with each saying they were not authorized to speak publicly. Thompson also declined to comment, and even the corporate representatives declined to speak on the record.

If that’s the case, Wired may be getting off rather light, with the five layoffs representing a small fraction of its staff. The magazine’s masthead lists 97 employees after the cuts, though that figure includes non-editorial positions, such as executive chef and VP of revenue. The editorial headcount appears to be closer to 70.

Still, the layoffs and the lack of transparency surrounding them left some staffers shaken. As one Wired employee who asked not to be named said, “It was real jarring to have that meeting, then literally be kicked out of your floor by contractors.”