- The media industry eliminated 836 positions in January 2023, an 11% increase versus January 2022
- News organizations accounted for over half the media layoffs, letting go 528 people
- Reasons include cost-cutting efforts, the uncertain economic climate, and investments in new technology
- Media outlets relying on outdated business models or unable to adapt face growing threats in 2023
- Nimble digital-first media firms catering to shifting consumer demand appear best positioned to thrive
The media business has never been for the faint of heart, but the new year brought bad news for journalists and media professionals. Major layoffs rocked newsrooms and publishers in January 2023, with the media industry shedding 836 jobs across film, TV, radio, streaming providers, and digital and print groups. This represented an 11% increase in job cuts compared to the same month last year, according to new data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
While the overall US job market remains strong, with over 350,000 positions added in January, employers in the media sector are singing a different tune. The 836 media cuts last month were concentrated heavily in news, which accounted for 528 of them – the highest seen since March 2022. For context, the news category only eliminated 30 jobs in December.
Some of the more high profile media layoffs came from the L.A. Times, Politico, Sports Illustrated, and The Messenger.
What’s behind this wave of newsroom and publishing layoffs to start 2023? Cost-cutting appears to be the driving factor, but broader economic undercurrents are also swirling.
With inflation stabilizing yet still elevated compared to historical averages, media outlets face challenging headwinds. Budgets across the marketing industry are under pressure, crimping ad revenue. Digital publishers, long reliant on online ads, are now scrambling to find new sources of revenue.
Consumer demand is also showing early signs of weakness, compounding financial worries for entertainment providers. In today’s fragmented streaming landscape, viewers have endless options for their time and money. Legacy broadcasters feel these pinch points acutely. Just ask Warner Bros. Discovery, which moved aggressively in 2022 to cull costs after merging HBO Max and Discovery+ in Max.
The Promise of New Tech Disrupts Media Jobs
Interestingly, increased adoption of technology also appears responsible for some of the 836 lost media jobs last month. As the Challenger report noted, sectors across the economy are investing heavily in automation and artificial intelligence to drive efficiency gains. Media companies are no exception, adopting chatbots to handle customer inquiries or using AI to generate certain types of content, like AI-generated sales proposals or social media posts for journalists.
While technological disruption causes workforce displacement in the short term, the long run picture is more complicated. Past innovation cycles illustrate how new technologies often create more jobs than they initially replace. But for those laid off in the interim, such academic debates offer little immediate comfort.
The Road Ahead For The Media Industry
With US media job cuts up 11% year-over-year through January, where does the industry go from here? Political and economic cross-currents promise continued unpredictability in 2023. Mid-term Congressional elections in 2024 could also change policy frameworks impacting media companies.
Yet there are also some positive trends to inspire optimism. Consumers still have a big appetite for news, analysis, and quality entertainment content. Nimble media outlets capable of serving these demands via digital platforms, like FAST channels, will likely thrive. But legacy institutions clinging to outdated models will face a more existential fight.
For media professionals wondering what the future may hold, flexibility and digital-first strategies appear key to job security. And as seasoned journalists can attest, never fall in love with any single employer – the romance rarely lasts forever.