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Vice Media CEO slams Big Tech as ‘great threat to journalism’

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Nancy Dubuc, chief executive officer of Vice Media

Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Vice Media is laying off around 155 employees globally as the coronavirus pandemic continues to strain the media industry, according to multiple reports. 

It’s just the latest in a string of cuts across publishing companies such as Buzzfeed, Conde Nast, Meredith, Vox and others. 

But in an unusual move, CEO Nancy Dubuc is placing the blame not only on coronavirus, but on Big Tech companies taking the lion’s share of digital advertising growth. 

In a memo announcing the layoffs, which was obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Dubuc wrote that “Big Tech” poses a “great threat to journalism.”

“We grew our digital business faster than anyone at a time when we believed that as more pies were baked, we’d keep getting a slice,” she wrote. 

“But we aren’t seeing the return from the platforms benefiting and making money from our hard work. Now, after many years of this, the squeeze is becoming a chokehold. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie… 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away,” she added. 

Dubuc echoes complaints from other publishers, notably News Corp, which has publicly blamed Google and Facebook for hurting the newspaper industry by publishing (or allowing users to share) excerpts from news stories without sharing a fair portion of ad revenues. The two companies account for about 60% of all digital advertising spend, according to estimates from eMarketer.

Dubuc’s memo said that 55 employees in the United States will be cut Friday, and approximately 100 people will be laid off globally in the coming weeks. The company will be providing severance pay and outplacement aid as they search for new jobs, and will receive extended health benefits coverage through 2020, she added. 

Disclosure: CNBC parent company NBCUniversal is an investor in Buzzfeed and Vox.