Huffington Post Shuts Down in Canada, Slimming Operations in Australia

Online news source, Huffington Post, is shuttering in Canada and slimming down in Australia – two countries currently discussing the link tax.

COVID-19 has had serious implications for everyone. One of those is journalism thanks to plummeting ad revenue. In response, big publishing has been pushing the narrative that the only cure to the ailing industry is to institute a link tax law. The link tax law being, of course, a law demanding that platforms and aggregators pay a tax for the privilege of linking to content. It’s obviously a backwards thinking law and there’s no evidence to suggest that it will even really solve much of anything. Still, big publishing is lobbying heavily to have these laws implemented around the world.

Two countries where the debate is seemingly looking bleak for those who support common sense is in Canada and Australia. In Australia, Facebook folded under pressure and decided to throw the Internet under the bus and go along with this. The move was echoed in Canada where Facebook is negotiating with Big Publishing as well. It is signs that the insane link tax law is inevitable in both countries.

So, for those who support the link tax law, the logic is that now operations are set to expand in both countries. After all, Big Publishing stands to have a system in place where they can basically freeload off of another industry. So, by that logic, no one is going to be slashing jobs or shutting down because that would be crazy. Well, reality, as it turns out, is cropping up and upending this fantasy altogether with very unfortunate consequences.

For the last few years, Huffington Post has been one of those news organizations on the rise. They were making inroads in a number of different countries. In Canada, they even managed to start getting talking heads on various broadcasts as well to discuss the news. Now, word is coming down that Huffington Post Canada is shutting down operations and simply leaving an archive of their coverage online. From CityNews:

BuzzFeed says it’s closing HuffPost Canada’s operations and laying off 23 workers as part of a broad restructuring plan for the company.

The decision follows a deal announced late last year by BuzzFeed to buy HuffPost from Verizon.

BuzzFeed says in a statement it is also laying off 47 HuffPost employees in the U.S. and beginning consultations in Australia and the U.K. to propose “slimming operations” in both places.

HuffPost Canada says on a message posted to its website that it will no longer be publishing content.

It said existing content will be maintained as an online archive, but that certain site features will be permanently disabled as of March 12.

Another report notes that the news also comes as Canadian employees were getting set to form a union. From CP24:

CWA Canada says about two dozen workers at HuffPost Canada had filed for union certification in February.

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, says it appears the decision to close HuffPost’s Canadian operations was planned.

O’Hanlon says the decision is devastating for Canadian journalism and continues the alarming trend of media consolidation across the country.

Apparently, employees were given little to no notice about the decision. From Vanocuver Is Awesome:

Reporters for the publication are reeling, indicating they were not warned of the site closure.

Many HuffPost Canada reporters have taken to Twitter to express their shock at the news

It appears the Canada and Quebec arm of the publication employed 23 people, and their last day will be Monday. Unconfirmed reports suggest all of the jobs in Canada will be cut.

So, the two big reasons for the shutdown is unionization and corporate consolidation. For the first one, if that was a big reason why the company decided to shut down operations, its a scumbag anti-union move that has been happening by corporations since at least the industrial revolution. Corporations have a very long history of treating employees in the worst possible manner including putting employees in dangerous situations and firing them for getting injured (i.e. the children that had to work in sewing factories losing fingers while crawling under machinery).

In more recent times, there has been significant efforts put in place to run unions into the ground. Things like sick leave, pay raises, and benefits have all happened thanks to unions. If corporations can get out of paying that out, they will. That’s a big reason why there has been efforts to try and get so few employees in union jobs in the first place. It’s not as profitable to pay employees fairly in the first place. Corporations would rather be in a situation where people are starved to the point where they’ll take any job just for some scraps of food. This as they rake in massive amounts of profit. They can’t get that with unions.

Additionally, the idea of shutting down a business because employees are trying to unionize is nothing new. Many companies have done that over the last decade. Corporations like Walmart have a reputation of pulling stunts like shutting down stores if there is even a whiff of unionization amongst employees. So, it wouldn’t be a real big surprise to us if this is happening in this case.

The other takeaway is that corporate consolidation does mean staff layoffs in a lot of cases. It’s a very standard pattern when corporate consolidation occurs. If there is less competition in an industry, there are less employees because there are fewer corporations in the market in the first place. What’s more is that there is less reason to try and compete when you have a borderline monopoly in some areas. Can’t, as a customer, go to the competition if there is no competition after all.

Another overarching message here is that a link tax would have done nothing to save those journalism positions. While some may push the message that journalism is dying because there is no link tax, the reality is that outlets shut down for a huge variety of reasons. Arguably, a lack of a link tax isn’t even one of those reasons. Reasons generally include a reluctance to adapt to a digital age, corporate consolidation, corporate decision making, and disruptions to revenue streams (in the last two years, that would be COVID-19). Here, we are seeing another classic example of two of those reasons.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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