- Netflix has fired a dozen writers and editors from its fan site, Tudum, which launched in December.
- The move is part of a reorganization of Netflix’s marketing department, with 25 people laid off in total.
- The site does not close. “Our fan website, Tudum, is an important priority,” Netflix said.
Just four months after the launch of the Tudum fan site,
fired a dozen of its editors and publishers on Thursday, with many sharing the news on Twitter and the shock rippling through to remaining staff.
“So many people left full-time jobs for this,” a writer from Tudum, who remains in his role, told Insider.
Layoffs are a grim and recurring reality in 21st century media. But for writers and editors who joined a new platform in a Hollywood venture full of tech money, some stability seemed within reach.
Instead, five staff members who spoke to Insider said Netflix had an unclear strategic vision for Tudum, no clear measures of success, and a veneer of editorial independence that eventually turned into “marketing of glorified content,” as one person who was fired put it.
“We were sold this fake fantasy,” said a second staff member who was fired. “We got scammed.”
A number of those who write or edit for the fansite — most of whom are contract workers and many of whom are people of color and women of color — had been recruited “aggressively,” as one put it. of them last summer and fall in outlets like Entertainment Weekly, Vice and The Wrap.
Tudum, which launched in December following a fan event of the same name in September, resembles a web magazine and essentially serves as a marketing platform focused on the streamer’s shows and movies.
The pay Netflix offered was a big draw for journalists and writers, with hourly rates ranging from $60 to $85 for 40-hour weeks – the first staffer called it “C-suite” money . (These rates annualize between $124,800 and $176,800.) The laid-off contractors received two weeks’ salary.
Several writers and editors told Insider that although they were initially told they would have editorial freedom, once on the job they were discouraged from covering potentially controversial topics. Banned, for example, was Jerry Harris – of Netflix docuseries “Cheer” – following the cheerleader’s guilty plea to child pornography charges.
Some submitted story writers have been vetted for being too complimentary or overly critical of Netflix series, with executives – often without journalism experience – handing out comments writers often found unclear, a third member said. Staff.
The first staffer, who has been fired several times in other news outlets, said he wouldn’t have been shy about generating marketing copy for Netflix if the company had been more direct with its goals .
“I was ready to rest,” this person said.
A ‘quiet week’ without meetings was a hint that change was coming
Netflix’s editorial hiring accelerated last summer with Michelle Lee, the managing editor of Condé Nast’s Allure for six years, who was named Netflix’s vice president of editorial and publishing reporting to of Bozoma Saint John, the director of marketing who has since left the company. Lee oversees Tudum, Netflix’s awards-focused Queue magazine and social networks such as Strong Black Lead and Geeked.
The layoffs at Tudum are part of larger cuts and a reorganization of Netflix’s marketing department: In all, 25 full-time employees have been laid off from Netflix’s marketing team, a figure that includes some Tudum employees.
“I wouldn’t have quit my job if I had known I wasn’t going to work in [several] months,” said a third member of staff who was made redundant and said he was initially hesitant to join a startup platform.
As Variety first reported, Shelly Gillyard, vice president of marketing for US and Canadian series at Netflix, and Jonathan Helfgot, vice president of marketing for US and Canadian movies, are being promoted to co-head their department. This follows Marian Lee’s elevation to director of marketing last month after leaving Saint John.
The marketing staff cuts come as Netflix slumps after a blistering earnings report and an expected drop of 2 million subscribers this quarter, all of which put the dominating streamer and Hollywood disruptor on the back foot .
“We never really knew what we were working towards”
Most staff members who spoke with Insider didn’t see the layoffs coming. Netflix restructured the Tudum team just a few weeks ago, with staff members ensuring that the site, being a brand new product, would no longer be affected. Tudum was one of Netflix’s “big strategic bets”, the third staff member recalls.
But a few noted a clue in hindsight: All meetings had been canceled for the week, ostensibly so the writers could use the “quiet week” to focus on homework.
The cuts were brutal, with
and email access was terminated just 30 minutes after Tudum staff members were notified of the news. “We were talking about [the layoffs] in Slack, then Slack was disabled. People were getting calls” at the same time, said a fourth staff member, who was fired. “It seemed a bit disorganized.”
Some staff said Tudum’s “newsroom,” as they called it, seemed unclear in its goals, with no measure of success communicated to them. Generally, in the media, journalists are aware of the page views of an article or the number of subscribers it attracts as indicators of its performance. “We never really knew what we were working towards,” said the third staff member.
The fourth added, “It seems like they didn’t know what they were doing. It was one of those cases where the costumes didn’t have ideas that meshed well” with the creative side.
Tudum does not close.
“Our fan website, Tudum, is an important business priority,” a Netflix spokesperson told Insider.