Yahoo lays off the leaders of Engadget

 The nearly 20-year-old tech publication Engadget is laying off staff and restructuring editorial teams today with a new focus on traffic and revenue growth. The changes are designed to give the outlet a stronger emphasis on commerce revenue, while removing key editorial leaders from its newsroom, including its editor-in-chief.

Engadget, which is operated by Yahoo, will lay off 10 employees, according to people with knowledge of the situation who say staff were “blindsided” by the decision. In addition to cutting staff, the editorial team will split into two sections: “news and features” and “reviews and buying advice.” The news teams will focus on traffic growth, while the reviews teams will report to commerce leaders.

As part of the layoffs, editor-in-chief Dana Wollman is out, according to posts on X, as is managing editor Terrence O’Brien. People with knowledge of the situation say that there are no plans to replace Wollman.

“[The changes] will allow us to streamline our work, increase our velocity, and ultimately deliver the best content to our readers,” Sarah Priestley, who is listed as Engadget’s general manager on its masthead, wrote in a memo shared by Max Tani at Semafor.

Taken together, the changes paint a picture of an outlet cutting staff to focus on things like Google traffic, SEO, commerce, and affiliate revenue — areas that could be potentially more lucrative for Yahoo, but also have a tendency to be fickle and subject to advertisers’ and Google’s business decisions. The “main charter” of its news and features team, for example, will be “traffic growth through high-quality, timely coverage.” The reviews and buying advice team will focus on evergreen content and guides — in other words, stories found via a search that drives affiliate revenue. Priestley, who previously was VP of digital marketing operations at Red Ventures, also wrote that collaboration with sales and SEO teams is key moving forward.

“We are making changes to the size and complexity of our organization to better streamline our efforts. This simplified structure is intended to help increase velocity while we create top quality content that’s relevant and valuable to our audience,” Katelyn Brehony, spokesperson for Engadget, told The Verge in an email. “Engadget has played a vital role in tech journalism for 20 years and we’re confident that these efficiencies will support future growth and set us up for the long term as we continue to deliver the best experience for our readers.”

Yahoo seems to be taking a page out of other outlets’ playbook. At CNET — where Priestley previously worked — a similar emphasis on SEO and marketing has gradually hollowed out the newsroom, either because so many staff left or were laid off. The bleed between the editorial and business side of the Red Ventures operation also led to issues with journalistic independence, as I reported last yearCNET staff unionized shortly after. 

At CNET, staff working on reviews especially felt the pressures of maintaining editorial independence under Red Ventures ownership. Some staff were asked to work on sponsored or advertiser content and were forced to push back.

Many media companies have turned to reviews and product recommendations as a cash cow for traffic and affiliate revenue, despite having lackluster reviews programs or barebones staff. The G/O Media-owned The Inventory, a commerce section sharing deals and purchases, regularly publishes AI bot-generated articles. As Google continues to introduce generative AI search results, some companies have been looking to product recommendations and reviews as a safeguard against traffic declines — sometimes at the expense of quality or independence.

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