After 14 years in operation, Complex Magazine will no longer publish a print edition, multiple sources tell Billboard.
In an internal announcement today, staff was informed that the December 2016/January 2017 issue, with Pusha T and Sofia Richie on the cover, would be the magazine’s last. An unspecified number of employees were laid off as part of the announcement, with one source saying that most of the cuts would come in the marketing and sales divisions; in addition, the magazine’s art staff was let go, as well as several people in editorial, including staff writer Kristen Yoonsoo Kim and news editor Ian Servantes.
“As Complex embarks on a rapid expansion of premium video creation across the company’s networks and with a growing list of distribution partners, the company is reallocating certain positions to address its content needs,” the company writes in a statement provided to Billboard. “We’re deeply committed to the ongoing evolution of our brand and our long-term plan to be a leader in digital video entertainment. While we’re reducing staff in some areas, we plan to increase to meet our needs in others.”
Founded by fashion designer Marc Ecko in 2002, Complex built its brand as a magazine by focusing on pop culture, specifically catering to the sneakerhead, streetwear and hip-hop scenes through its bi-monthly magazine. The Complex Media Network, launched a half-decade later as the global economic crisis took its toll on the print media business, soon became a publishing force in the music media landscape, encompassing dozens of sites such as Pigeons & Planes, HipHopDX, 2DopeBoyz and its flagship Complex.com, becoming a profitable enterprise by 2010.
Recently, however, there have been changes in the corporate structure of the company; following a $21 million investment by the Hearst Corporation in September 2015, Complex Media was acquired by Hearst and Verizon this April in a 50-50 ownership deal that valued the brand between $250-$300 million (Billboard spoke with Ecko about that deal in an interview published at the time). Three months ago, Variety reported that Verizon and Hearst combined Complex Media with two other online video networks into Complex Networks, and reported that Complex draws more than 52 million unique monthly visitors, citing comScore data.
Those moves seem to have paved the way for today’s announcement, as the focus on video overtakes any benefit provided by the magazine. This year also marked the first edition of ComplexCon, a two-day convention and festival that took place in Los Angeles in November.
With a number of web-based video shows launching across the Complex Network in the coming year, a source says that despite today’s staffing cuts, the company expects to grow in 2017.