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Journalismism

G/O Media Offloads Shuttered Jezebel To Paste Media Group

2:02 PM EST on November 29, 2023

Jezebel.
Illustration by Dan McQuade

G/O Media chief executive and parasitic bozo Jim Spanfeller has finally succeeded at something. He managed to find a buyer for Jezebel, the popular feminist publication that he shuttered indefinitely on Nov. 9 after determining that he and his lackeys couldn't align its content with their company's overall business strategy. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Jezebel was purchased Tuesday by the music and entertainment digital magazine Paste, for an undisclosed amount. The deal also includes the transfer of long-defunct politics site Splinter, which was shut down by Spanfeller back in 2019.

Paste's plan appears to be to bring Jezebel quickly back into operation—the Times reported that Paste co-founder and editor-in-chief Josh Jackson said the site could resume publishing as soon as Wednesday, which, uh, is either today or one week from today—but Jezebel remains unstaffed after the site's bare-bones crew was laid off en masse when G/O Media abruptly pulled the plug. The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Jackson is acting fast to staff up the re-homed site, extending offers within hours of completing the deal to "some staffers who lost their jobs when Jezebel was shut down." Jackson reportedly will aim to choose a new editor-in-chief for the site early next week. Jezebel's last editor-in-chief, Laura Bassett, resigned in August amid brutal staffing shortages and the sudden appearance of AI-generated crap across the network of G/O Media properties, and what she described as the company's refusal "to treat my staff with basic human decency." The interim editor-in-chief at the time of Jezebel's shuttering was senior editor Lauren Tousignant, who was also the site's lone full-time editor.

News of G/O Media's determination to sell Jezebel was broken to the site's staff by Axios in late October. Three weeks later, in the note announcing Jezebel's closure, Spanfeller said that G/O Media deputy editorial director Lea Goldman had canvassed "over two dozen potential buyers" without landing a deal, a failure that led to the site's demise. Goldman's efforts stretched back at least into mid-September, according to communications reviewed by Defector, and directly involved Spanfeller, who participated in discussions with prospective buyers. The Daily Beast reported on Nov. 20 that Spanfeller found more success in this undertaking after announcing the decision to nuke the site, with four new potential buyers coming "out of the woodwork," two of which made seven-figure offers for Jezebel. The then-frontrunner, according to the Daily Beast, was an unnamed "angel investor-turned-media buyer" who may have been affiliated with Bassett, who in the deal would return as Jezebel's senior editor. This may not have been the first time that Bassett had an opportunity to pry Jezebel away from Spanfeller: Jezebel staff told Defector that a rumor circulated in August that then-G/O Media editorial director Merrill Brown offered to sell the site to Bassett shortly after her resignation.

The angel investor appears not to have made it over the finish line, and Jezebel is now the property of Paste Media Group, based in Atlanta. It's hard to know how serious Goldman's sales canvassing efforts really were if they failed to turn up four serious potential buyers, two of whom were reportedly willing to pay into the millions of dollars for a website G/O Media was evidently desperate to offload. Then again, Jezebel may be more attractive as an investment after it's been stripped and mothballed: Jezebel's staff was organized with the GMG Union, under the Writer's Guild of America East; purchasing Jezebel as an unstaffed brand instead of a working publication might possibly break the unit's successorship clause. Language in the GMG Union agreement with G/O Media makes it so that a purchaser of G/O Media assets—that is, websites—is only required to adhere to the provisions of the contract if the website still has staff at the time of the sale:

In the event that the Company sells any of its assets in the form of an asset transaction, and the purchaser hires as a majority of its employees, employees who are bargaining unit employees at the time of the sale, then the purchaser shall be required to assume and adopt this Agreement for the balance of its term from and after the date of the purchase, and the Union assents to the purchaser's assumption and employment of the bargaining unit employees hired by the purchaser.

A source at WGAE confirmed to Defector on Wednesday that "successorship does not apply" in the sale of Jezebel. Jackson and Paste could of course voluntarily adopt the terms of the contract; Defector reached out to Jackson Wednesday but had not heard back by publication.

Jackson reportedly expects to keep Jezebel's operation small for now, somewhere "close to the size it was when the site was shut down," according to the Daily Beast. It's worth remembering that this end-stage Jezebel was operating with one editor and demanding far too much of its staff; it will not exactly qualify as a triumphant resurrection of a beloved site if it is expected to grind along for very long on those same punishing terms. Reserve a measure of skepticism for what this sale means for Jezebel's long-term prospects: Paste Media Group will soak up a lot of goodwill for buying a beloved brand from out of the clutches of one of the most ridiculed and reviled figures in all of digital media, without having had to prove any substantial commitment to return the site to its former glory. The hard part is what comes next.

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