Yesterday, the gay hookup app Grindr shut down its LGBTQ news site, INTO, and laid off its entire editorial and social media staff. Grindr says it made the decision to “[refocus] its efforts on video,” but a former staffer says the company laid off its entire editorial video team as well.
The company’s decision comes barely six weeks after INTO broke news of Grindr CEO Scott Chen’s comment that “Marriage is a holy matrimony between a man and a woman.”
Chen’s comment appeared in a Facebook post in which he criticized a Taiwanese company for donating to Taiwan’s anti-gay political campaign. Grindr’s communication director abruptly quit after INTO publicized Chen’s comment.
In a statement about the lay-offs released yesterday, Grindr wrote:
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…. 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.
Queerty has asked three different former INTO staff members if their lay off had anything with INTO pointing out Chen’s marriage comments last November. All three have not responded.
Former INTO staff member Mary Emily O’Hara said on Twitter that despite the company’s alleged “pivot to video,” the company also laid off INTO‘s entire video staff.
“This was a reason originally provided to INTO and that’s why it was included in the staff statement earlier. But the video department was indeed part of the layoff,” O’Hara wrote. “I can’t speak to the company’s motivation for letting us go today, but don’t want false information circulating about it either.”
I see a lot of comments about Grindr closing down INTO in a ‘pivot to video’ and want to clarify for the record: INTO’s video staff was also let go today.
— Mary Emily O'Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) January 16, 2019
INTO‘s former editor Zach Stafford is currently slated to give a talk at the upcoming 2019 South By Southwest Interactive Media Festival entitled, “Why Grindr Started an Online LGBTQ Magazine.” It’s unclear whether the talk will be cancelled or whether Stafford will use the opportunity to explain Grindr’s decision to launch INTO only to shut it down 17 months later.
Grindr never fully integrated INTO‘s content into its app, depriving its editorial site tons of web traffic and potential ad revenue. As of now, Hornet and GayCities are the only two gay social apps we know of that still offer editorial content to its users.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the statement about INTO‘s layoffs came from the INTO staff. It did not. Instead, the INTO staff wrote the following statement:
The team at INTO was saddened to learn this morning that as of Jan. 15, we will no longer be with Grindr. The company will be refocusing its efforts on video and as such, the editorial and social teams were let go this morning. We feel that INTO’s closure is a tremendous loss for LGBTQ media, journalism, and the world.
During our nearly two years, we created incredible, award-winning content for and about the LGBTQ community worldwide. 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 that time, we built one of the largest LGBTQ platforms in history—using the power of social media to reach queer audiences around the globe. Others took notice. Our reporting was cited in notable publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. We were the first national outlet to interview Christine Hallquist about her groundbreaking candidacy for the Vermont governorship, which would have made her the first trans person elected governor of a U.S. state. We helped start a national conversation on Girl, a Belgian film our publication termed “trans trauma porn.” We pushed the year’s biggest LGBTQ films to allow queer media publications access after years of being shut out and ignored by studios.
In doing so, we further proved what queer people have shown for decades: there is an audience, a desire, and a hunger for LGBTQ stories told by LGBTQ people. This includes all letters of the queer alphabet, including intersex, bisexual, pansexual, agender, and asexual communities that had long felt marginalized by mainstream media. Just as importantly, we centered the voices of queer and trans people of color after years of criticism that queer media was too white, too male, and too cisgender. We have hoped to lead by example.
To us, taking a moment to celebrate INTO is not a matter of highlighting what we’ve done—although there is room for pride and reflection. It’s about doing what we will continue to do, inside or outside this publication: lift up and celebrate our community. Thank you to our readers, freelance contributors, and all those who have supported us in the past year and a half. It was literally too good to be true.