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Jezebel: Feminist media site shuts down after 16 years

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Feminist media site Jezebel is suspending publication, as its owner reckons with a downturn in online advertising.

G/O Media chief Jim Spanfeller announced the move in a memo to staff, calling it an "excruciating" decision.

Founded in 2007 under the Gawker Media umbrella, Jezebel pioneered the sharp, dishy coverage that came to characterise many digital upstarts.

Its suspension follows woes at other new media firms.

Mr Spanfeller said he had hoped G/O - which also publishes sites such as The Onion, Jalopnik and Gizmodo - would be able to steer through "dark times" in the industry, but "could hold out no longer".

He said Jezebel's model did not mesh with the strategy for its other, more niche publications.

Talks with more than two dozen potential buyers ended without success, he said.

"It is a testament to Jezebel's heritage and bonafides that so many players engaged us," he wrote in the memo, shared with the BBC.

"Still, despite every effort, we could not find Jez a new home."

In addition to suspending publication of Jezebel, he said the firm was restructuring editorial and business teams.

The moves will lead to 23 jobs lost, including at Jezebel, he said.

He said he still held out hope that an alternative solution could be reached for the publication.

Jezebel is the latest new media brand to succumb to a downturn in the industry.

Vice Media is continuing to restructure after emerging from bankruptcy. Earlier this year, Buzzfeed News shut down.

In an essay this year, Ben Smith, former editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed News, credited Jezebel with ushering in a new era for media, saying it was one of the "first places to crystallize the powerful forces that would define social media over the next decade: politics and identity".

Though many of these outlets have since been shut down, he said they had reshaped traditional media in their image.

The Writers Guild of America East, which represented writers for the site, said Jezebel had "made an indelible mark on the media landscape" and it was "devastated though hardly surprised" by the closure.

Jezebel was bought by G/O Media, which is owned by a private equity firm, in 2019.

It had previously been owned by Univision, which agreed to purchase the site and others in the Gawker empire, for a reported $135m in 2016.

In 2020, a union representing writers at G/O called on the firm's private equity owners to replace Mr Spanfeller, saying that traffic to its sites had fallen under his leadership, according to a Wall Street Journal report at the time.

Thursday's announcements further enflamed tension between management and staff.

"This callous layoff has everything to do with G/O Media's ineffectual management and nothing to do with the talent of our fellow workers, who should still be here with us," said Writers Guild of America East members at The Onion, which was also affected by the job cuts.

The union said the decision to shutter Jezebel also revealed problems with relying on advertising to fund news, when companies may shy away from buying ads against some news topics - like abortion and sexual assault - because of concerns about brand safety.

"A well-run company would have moved away from an advertising model, but instead they are shuttering the brand entirely because of their strategic and commercial ineptitude," the union said.