Grindr has effectively shuttered INTO, the hookup app’s LGBTQ+ news site, according to a statement from the INTO team released to press.
An anonymous source tells Out that Grindr President Scott Chen laid off Into’s entire editorial and social staff without warning Tuesday morning. All three of the publication’s full-time editorial employees are affected, including Managing Editor Trish Bendix and Politics Reporter Nico Lang, as well as all contract writers, columnists, and freelancers who contribute to the site. According to the letter, the “company will be focusing its efforts on video.”
Grindr also laid off INTO’s entire social media team. Our source tells us that this team, composed of three full-time staffers, also managed all of Grindr’s social media accounts. This follows the departure of Grindr’s chief content officer, Zach Stafford, who also served as the publication’s editor-in-chief, as well as the app’s head of communications, Landon Rafe Zumwalt.
(Disclosure: I worked for INTO as a freelance contract writer for seven months in 2017 and 2018. Out Staff Writer Mathew Rodriguez previously worked as a Staff Writer at INTO, and Zach Stafford, the newly appointed editor in chief of fellow Pride Media site The Advocate, was the founding editor in chief of INTO.)
Chen announced the layoffs in an email sent to INTO staff Tuesday at 11:02 a.m. PST. Out has obtained a screenshot of this email, which reads:
As with any growing business, we have to continually evaluate what is best for Grindr. After a thoughtful and collaborative process, we decided to modify INTO’s content mix to rely more heavily on video. This decision was driven by the high user engagement and development we see through channels such as video and YouTube.
This was a difficult decision, but with this new strategic focus, several INTO employees will be leaving the company. Our leadership is proud of the work INTO has done and know that it has served an important role in our business and overall mission.
We want to thank our INTO colleagues for their contributions to Grindr and wish them well. In the meantime, we ask that we all stay focused on fulfilling our important mission together and serving the LGBTQ+ community.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing our 2019 goals and beginning the process to redefine our mission,vision, and values as an organization.
The INTO staff responded to the layoffs in a statement.
“During our nearly two years, we created incredible, award-winning content for and about the LGBTQ community worldwide,” the team wrote in a statement. “We have been awarded with a GLAAD nomination and honored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA); we were also given a special award from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF). We told stories of transgender prisoners forced to endure nightmarish treatment behind bars, LGBTQ asylum seekers looking for hope and refuge in the United States, and drag queens fighting for space and community in small town Tennessee. We shared the hopes and joys of the LGBTQ community, our successes and setbacks, and our triumphs and heartaches during a vulnerable political moment. We aimed to give a voice to those who need one now more than ever, a platform for them to see themselves represented wholly.”
In November, INTO broke the story that Chen, who became Grindr’s CEO after the company was bought by the Chinese gaming company Kunlun in 2018, had posted that “marriage is between a man and a woman” on his personal Facebook page. Chen later apologized, clarifying that his comments had been taken out of context. Our source tells us that the layoffs were not retaliatory in response to INTO’s report.
Out reached out to Grindr for comment on the layoffs. In a statement, Grindr’s press team says: “As with any growing business, we have to continually evaluate what is best for Grindr. After a thoughtful and collaborative process, Grindr’s leadership decided to modify INTO’s content mix to rely more heavily on video. This decision was driven by the high user engagement and development we see through channels such as Twitter and YouTube. With this strategic shift in focus, several INTO employees will be leaving the company. This was a difficult decision and one that we do not take lightly. We want to thank these colleagues for all of their contributions to Grindr and our community.”
The layoffs at INTO, which Grindr launched in 2017, reflect a number of greater precarities in the news media landscape, from the difficulties LGBTQ+ journalists have in securing full-time employment to the ongoing threat of mass layoffs with little to no warning.