In a surprising development, media giant Condé Nast announced it was moving online music outlet Pitchfork “into the GQ organization” on Jan. 17, grouping the publication with the men’s interest magazine that is also a part of the company. What this means for the future of the website -- which the New York Times called “one of the most influential music publications in the United States” -- is unclear, though the announcement signaled that there would be layoffs at Pitchfork, including editor-in-chief Puja Patel.
Condé Nast, which acquired the previously independent Pitchfork in 2015, also publishes GQ, as well as Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired, among many others. Last November, the company announced plans to lay off 5% of its employees.
Pitchfork, which developed a reputation as an indie rock bible whose reviews could make or break bands’ careers in the 2000s and 2010s, also organizes the annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.
In a letter to staff that was obtained by Semafor media reporter Max Tani and posted to X (formerly known as Twitter), Condé Nast’s chief content officer Anna Wintour wrote:
“Today we are evolving our Pitchfork team structure by bringing the team into the GQ organization. The 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.
“Both Pitchfork and GQ have unique and valuable ways that they approach music journalism, and we are excited for the new possibilities together. With these organizational changes, some of our Pitchfork colleagues will be leaving the company today. I want to thank Puja (Patel) for her leadership of the title over the last five years. She has been a wonderful colleague and advocate for the brand, and I’m grateful for her and the team’s many contributions.
“Members of the Pitchfork team will hear more about their reporting structure in meetings this week. There are no additional changes at this time as we focus on our internal team structure and operations. We will of course keep this team updated first when any new decisions are made about the transition.”
Further down the X thread, Tani added: “Pitchfork is going to continue publishing, but future seems unclear medium/long term. I’m told this was a business side decision.”
Founded in 1996 by Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork made a name for itself in the early 2000s as an authority on indie and underground rock, and the outlet’s early support for acts like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens undeniably helped break them into the mainstream. The site’s sometimes esoteric style made it a frequent target of (typically affectionate) parodies, with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s IFC series Portlandia once dedicating an entire sketch to gently satirizing the publication. The site launched the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago in 2006, which has featured acts like Kendrick Lamar, the National, Bjork and Tame Impala as headliners over the years.
The move to align Pitchfork with the male-focused GQ is certain to raise some eyebrows, as Condé Nast attracted fierce criticism in 2015 when chief digital officer Fred Santarpia cited a desire to bring “a very passionate audience of Millennial males into our roster” when the company announced the acquisition. Patel became the site’s first female editor-in-chief in 2018, and over the past several years Pitchfork has noticeably broadened its scope to include much more coverage of pop, Latin, hip-hop and international music.
Current and former Pitchfork staffers lamented the dramatic move on social media, with founder Schreiber (who left the outlet in 2018) saying: "Extremely saddened by the news that Condé Nast has chosen to restructure Pitchfork and lay off so much of its staff, including some who've been integral to its operations for many years/decades. Sending love to everyone affected and hoping for the best for its future."
Longtime Pitchfork writer Jayson Greene, who authored the acclaimed memoir Once More We Saw Stars in 2019, tweeted: "Heartbroken and left numb as the scope of devastation becomes clear. Pitchfork, one of the most recognizable brands in media, was massacred today for no apparent reason."