Bustle Digital Shuts Down Joshua Topolsky’s The Outline Amid Broader Company Layoff of 24 Staffers

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UPDATED: Amid a bigger workforce reduction at Bustle Digital Group, the company laid off the staff of The Outline, the tech-focused site founded by journalist Joshua Topolsky, and abruptly shut it down just about one year after acquiring it.

BDG laid off 24 employees across the company, including those at The Outline, and it also is enacting pay cuts for most of those remaining. Bustle Digital cited the economic impact of coronavirus crisis for the decisions.

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“The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has forced us to make some tough business decisions,” a Bustle Digital Group spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “Most staff will be taking temporary tiered salary reductions and unfortunately, we have eliminated two dozen positions across the company.”

The company’s brands include Bustle, Nylon, The Zoe Report, Elite Daily, Romper, Flavorpill, Mic, Inverse and Input, the recently launch tech-news site that had been paired with The Outline. Last fall, BDG made staff cuts at flagship women’s site Bustle, letting go at least 10 employees and contributors as it planned for a redesign in 2020.

Regarding The Outline, the BDG rep said, “We are halting operations of The Outline going forward. We will continue to host the publication and the archives, and Josh Topolsky will be exploring alternative paths forward for the publication’s future.”

It’s not clear how many staffers were pink-slipped with the closure of The Outline; the publication’s staff page lists 10 employees.

Several staff members of The Outline tweeted about the layoffs Friday. “Farewell @outline. we have all been laid off,” Outline executive editor Leah Finnegan wrote in a Twitter post. As part of the thread, Finnegan wrote, “i am tremendously proud of all the weird, funny, interesting, and brilliant stuff we put into the universe, and all the talented writers we were able to publish. thank you for reading, and i hope you will remember what we did fondly.”

Topolsky is best known as being one of the founding editors of Vox Media’s The Verge tech news and opinion site. Following a brief stint at Bloomberg, he went on to found The Outline. In a tweet Friday, Topolsky noted that he incorporated Independent Media and The Outline on Oct. 25, 2015 — the “day after my birthday.”

Bustle Digital Group, headed by founder and CEO Bryan Goldberg, picked up The Outline as part of the company’s roll-up strategy to acquire struggling digital media players.

Other recent BDG acquisitions have included its purchase of digital-news startup Mic in late 2018 (after the publication had laid off most of its staff) and fashion/culture magazine Nylon. In July 2018, Goldberg bought the assets of Gawker.com and intended to relaunch it, but subsequently nixed the plan and laid off the Gawker staff he had hired.

BDG had positioned The Outline as a niche digital magazine providing deep dives into technology culture and trends with the tagline “It’s not for everyone. It’s for you.” Prior to Bustle Digital’s acquisition of The Outline, the publication had laid off its staff writers, resulting in a freelancer boycott campaign. The Outline had raised around $10 million from investors that included RRE Ventures, Boat Rocker Ventures, NextView Ventures and Advancit Capital.

Jeremy Gordon, formerly Outline’s deputy editor, tweeted that the final article published on the site is about how the coffee industry “is built on exploitation and may soon cease to exist.” He added, “I’m not making any cynical parallels, just — ha ha ha!”

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