Condé Nast Is Folding Pitchfork Into GQ, With Layoffs

Pitchfork, once a cultural bastion for music criticism, will be merged with the men’s magazine GQ, leading to layoffs within the online publication, according to a memo from Anna Wintour, the chief content officer of Condé Nast, their parent company.

“This decision was made after a careful evaluation of Pitchfork’s performance, and what we believe is the best path forward for the brand so that our coverage of music can continue to thrive within the company,” Ms. Wintour wrote in her memo, which was issued to the staff on Wednesday.

Among the casualties of the merger was Puja Patel, the site’s editor in chief since 2018, who had replaced Pitchfork’s founder, Ryan Schreiber.

“Both Pitchfork and GQ have unique and valuable ways that they approach music journalism,” Ms. Wintour said, “and we are excited for the new possibilities together. With these organizational changes, some of our Pitchfork colleagues will be leaving the company today.”

A representative for Condé Nast declined to say how many people were laid off.

Mr. Schreiber launched Pitchfork as a Minneapolis teenager in 1996. The name was a reference to a tattoo worn by Tony Montana, Al Pacino’s character in the classic film “Scarface.”

In the coming years, Pitchfork established itself as a taste-making institution. A prolific publication that could make or break a release from an artist — well-known or otherwise — with scathing put-downs or voluminous praise, it became an alternative to Rolling Stone for an audience hungry for a more indie taste.

An example: The outlet gave Sonic Youth’s 2000 album, “NYC Ghosts & Flowers,” a zero out of 10 rating.

“Now, finally, my generation has its ‘Metal Machine Music’ — an unfathomable album which will be heard in the squash courts and open mic nights of deepest hell,” Brent DiCrescenzo wrote at the time.

Or, in a rave review, the writing could veer to the abstract, as with the opening sentences to a 9.7 review of the Arcade Fire album “Funeral,” which helped the band break through to the mainstream.

“Ours is a generation overwhelmed by frustration, unrest, dread, and tragedy,” David Moore wrote. “Fear is wholly pervasive in American society, but we manage nonetheless to build our defenses in subtle ways — we scoff at arbitrary, color-coded ‘threat’ levels; we receive our information from comedians and laugh at politicians.”

The site has had its critics over the years, with complaints that some of its reviews were unnecessarily mean or just wrong.

In some cases, Pitchfork has opted for do-overs. Liz Phair’s self-titled album received a zero from the critic Matt LeMay when it came out in 2003. Sixteen years later, Mr. LeMay would refer to his review as “condescending and cringey.”

In 2021, Phair’s album was one of several that got another look from Pitchfork — this time getting a 6.

Condé Nast acquired Pitchfork in 2015. Fred Santarpia, Condé Nast’s chief digital officer at the time, said then that Pitchfork brought with it “a very passionate audience of millennial males into our roster.”

With the rise of social media, music streaming, social media and podcasts, Pitchfork has lost some of the cultural cachet that it possessed two decades ago. And like many media companies, Condé Nast, whose portfolio includes The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue, has struggled to remain profitable in the face of advertising cutbacks.

In November, Condé Nast announced it would be laying off 5 percent of its work force, about 270 employees.


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