Bustle Digital Group Shutters Fatherly, Part of Its Parenting Portfolio

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The digital media company Bustle Digital Group (BDG) laid off seven editorial staff of its title Fatherly on Friday and will significantly decrease its editorial output going forward, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The decision marks the latest in a series of retrenchments from BDG, which over the last two years has sunset titles including Gawker and Input while clearing house at Mic. Last month, the media company also let go of nine full-time employees across Romper, Bustle and Elite Daily, which has not previously been reported.

A representative for BDG confirmed the news. The Writers Guild of America, East, which represents the BDG Union, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We are not shutting down Fatherly,” said a representative for the company. “The brand will continue to exist in both newsletter and social media form. However, it will no longer continue to produce dozens of weekly stories, as it did previously.”

The wind-down follows a wave of layoffs that have swept the digital media industry in recent months. The downturn in digital ad spend last year, combined with shifting patterns in traffic that have disproportionately affected social publishers, have challenged the businesses of companies including Vice, BuzzFeed Inc. and BDG in particular.

Last year, BDG brought in between $136 million and $144 million in revenue, a 10% to 15% decline from 2022, when BDG generated $160 million in revenue. According to LinkedIn, the company has over 200 staffers.

Parenting problems

The clear-out of Fatherly represents the first time BDG has wound down a brand in its parenting portfolio, which also includes Romper, Scary Mommy and The Dad. 

BDG acquired the properties, including Fatherly, in July 2021 from Some Spider Studios for $150 million in stock.

The acquisition was part of a larger strategy from BDG to bolster its parenting offerings as more of its millennial readership, which began following BDG at its inception a decade ago, transitioned into the child-rearing phase of their lives, chief content officer Emma Rosenblum told ADWEEK at the time. 

“In the past 10 years, rather than buying What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the parenting community and the advice available to them has all gone online,” Rosenblum said. “Everybody who grew up online is now in their 30s or 40s, having kids and still online.”

By November 2022, a little more than a year after the acquisition, the four titles had generated a 58% increase in parent readers and had a cumulative social following of 41 million, according to the publisher. Its newsletter subscribers across the same portfolio grew 32% year over year, and earnings from the division accounted for 27% of its annual revenue.

CPG struggling

BDG generates between 85% to 90% of its revenue from advertising, which has left it particularly susceptible to vacillations in the market.

More specifically, the company divides its advertising business into two broad categories—luxury and fashion, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) and parenting—and the latter struggled in 2023, as ADWEEK has previously reported. 

BDG titles that cater to luxury advertisers—such as Nylon, Bustle and W Magazine—have performed solidly and been buoyed by a robust live events business. But those in its parenting and consumer goods portfolio—such as Elite Daily, Scary Mommy and Fatherly—have performed poorly.

Additionally, the saturated nature of the CPG space has challenged BDG. The increasing dominance of retail media giants, particularly Walmart and Amazon, has also made CPG budgets more contested.

Longtime BDG chief revenue officer and president Jason Wagenheim left the company at the end of 2023, and the company has said previously that it plans to fill the role in the first quarter of the year.

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