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‘All three companies do the same thing:’ Digital publishing mashup Maven cut $5 million and laid off 17 Say Media staffers to reach profitability



James Heckman is CEO of


  • Say Media let go of 17 staffers as the company merges
    with Maven and HubSpace to create one digital publishing
  • Maven recently cut $5 million in operating costs but
    says that it’s on track to hit $30 million in revenue this
  • Matt Sanchez will not stay on with Maven’s leadership,
    according to CEO Jim Heckman.

Serial entrepreneur James Heckman wants to create a healthy
alternative outside of Facebook for small publishers — and is
making cuts to do so.

In March, Maven
announced plans
to acquire Say Media. The company also
acquired HubPages in January and said that the combination of
Maven, Say Media and HubPages “will bring together former
competitors to create a dominant platform for professional,
independent publishers,” according to a press release.

Mave offers publishers a platform that reaches more than 90
million monthly readers and includes 300 channels with 6,000
writers, the company says.

As part of the transition to becoming a single company, Say Media
laid off 17 staffers across its creative studio, development,
engineering, sales and general and administrative roles two weeks
ago. The company’s Toronto and London offices have closed and
some of the company will operate out of Maven’s office in

Say Media also has also let got of some employees in its n New
York, San Francisco and Portland offices.

“All three companies do the same thing,” Heckman told Business
Insider. “It would be really irresponsible for us to not finish
the merger as planned. It’s a shame on a personal basis but
obviously it’s an exciting move for the company to get to

Maven says the cuts shave $5 million off of operating costs and
the firm is on track to hit its previous revenue goal of $30
million this year. Matt Sanchez, CEO and founder of Say Media,
will help in the transition in creating one company but is
leaving the company. Heckman expects for the Say Media deal to
close in September.

Say Media has been through multiple evolutions

Sanchez founded a video advertising company called VideoEgg in
2005 that was renamed Say Media in 2010 after acquiring ad
network Six Apart. Say Media owned media brands like xoJane,
ReadWrite and Remodelista for a few years before selling them off
in 2014
to focus solely on providing technology for

According to one source, Say Media team leads to make decisions
about “major” staff cuts within 24 to 48 hours.

At the time of the acquisition in March, it seemed like Sanchez
would be included in Maven’s new leadership, including a 7-minute
video that Maven distributed that explained how the coalition
would work.

On April 6, Say Media employees received a memo written from
Heckman sent via Sanchez’s email address detailing how the three
companies would work together. The bottom of the email listed
bios on 18 of Maven’s leadership team — including Sanchez.

“The destruction of an online news and information ecosystem that
took two decades to build has created a vacuum, and an
opportunity as big as Facebook’s forfeiture of the news space,”
he wrote. “So it makes sense our three founding teams agreed to
join hands and align complementary skill sets to restore
sustainability by fairly empowering independent, professional
content creators — ‘mavens.’ To ensure success, it’s critical we
move forward as one, and without hesitation. Success means fair
rewards for everyone: advertisers, publishers, consumers, all of
you as well as investors.”

He went on to explain Maven’s mission to provide a unified
publishing platform, ad-tech stack and sales operations for
independent publishers. The idea is to create an alternative to
the duopoly of Facebook and Google that controls how publishers
distribute content and sell ads.

“There’s an extraordinary, urgent need to solve for independent
publisher sustainability,” Heckman wrote. “Frankly, we’re at
ground zero of the biggest cultural and news shift of our era,
including the impact of fake news, fake traffic, election fraud,
destroyed livelihoods, data theft, broken promises and Silicon
Valley executives playing God on lots of levels. We’re in
position now to help in a meaningful way.”

Maven’s leadership team now consists of Heckman as CEO and member
of the board; president and executive chair of the board Josh
Jacobs; chief operating officer and former HubPages CEO/founder
Paul Edmondson; CMO Michelle Panzer, formerly Say Media’s vp of
global marketing and brand development; and chief product officer
Ben Trout, formerly Say Media’s vp of engineering. Maven
co-founder and chief technology officer Ben Joldersma will
continue in his role as well as becoming chief architect.

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