Digital media outlet The Outline seems to be struggling, and this latest move raises serious questions about its future. The company has let go its last remaining staff writers, according to tweets from the reporters themselves. This report from Fast Company speculates that the company may go to an entirely freelance model from here (or maybe shut down). So far CEO and founder Josh Topolsky hasn’t made a statement. The moves come after a series of shakeups and layoffs that date back to late last year.
If this truly is The Outline’s demise, it was rather quick. The company launched in 2016 and raised more than $5 million this May toward Topolsky’s vision of a news site focused on quality content that went after measured (rather than hyper) growth. The idea was to appeal to advertisers who were trying to reach a highly engaged, select and desirable audience. But the sobering fact in 2018 is that digital advertising is still being inexorably soaked up by Facebook and Google, and native advertising has fallen out of favor with brands. Topolsky started The Outline after departing abruptly from Bloomberg in 2015. No doubt he misses the financial cushion provided by Bloomberg’s massive terminal business—venture capital can be far less forgiving.