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As Vice cuts headcount, Refinery29 ploughs ahead with Latinx brand launch


By Katie Deighton, Senior Reporter

May 15, 2020 | 4 min read

The coronavirus has sent publishers’ advertising revenues into decline, forcing many to lay off staff and hold back product developments. However, Refinery29 is bucking that trend with the launch of a new platform for the Latinx community, despite parent company Vice Media Group cutting 5% of its staff today (15 May).

Somos Refinery

R29Somos launched on 13 May

R29Somos will serve up editorial, video and social content designed with the English-speaking Latinx community in mind. Its homepage will sit within the main Refinery29 site while a dedicated Instagram page will direct users to its pages.

Launch articles include ‘I Went From Braiding On My Stoop To Styling Salma Hayek’ and ‘What Joe Biden Could Learn From Tío Bernie To Get The Latinx Vote’.

The community that R29Somos aims to serve is one that is growing but underserved and underrepresented by the media. Coverage of and for Latinx people also tends to lack nuance, explained Thatiana Diaz, the editorial lead for R29Somos.

“The way that I grew up in the Dominican Republic wouldn't be the same way that someone Mexican grew up in Los Angeles, or someone Cuban grew up in Miami,” she explains. “But many times, the way that we're covered is as if we're all the same.

“There's so much diversity within our community that we felt could be highlighted in an accurate way. We're making that a priority in all our storytelling.”

Despite the demand for such a channel in the marketplace, it’s a particularly precarious time to launch a new media brand. Not even the New York Times has proven immune to the plummet in advertiser spend during the coronavirus, and the past week has seen international publishers including BuzzFeed and Quartz lay off swathes of journalists to protect their bottom line.

Vice Media Group, which owns Refinery29, also announced it was laying off 155 employees today (15 May). Refinery29 did not immediately respond to comment on how or if the cuts would affect the brand.

But R29Somos is sheltered somewhat from advertiser revenue hits given the nature of its model. It is sponsored by one partner – Ulta Beauty – and the partnership had been “in discussion for a while”, with Ulta having previously sponsored Refinery29’s Unbothered channel for black millennial women.

Meanwhile, Shelley Haus, chief marketing officer at Ulta Beauty, said reaching the Latinx community was an important part of the company’s strategy. Over the past few years, the brand has invested in targeting the community via channels such as Telemundo, Hola, Mitú and Popsugar Latina.

“The need for such a platform to give visibility to millions of Latinx women across the country was still a reality, and continues to be one throughout this environment,” Haus explained. “We're launching now with the goal of creating content that resonates for this audience meaningfully.

“We seek ways to kickstart important conversations through the lens of beauty among many and those who are underrepresented in the media space, such as Latinx, can continue to count on our brand to help them feel seen, heard and understood.”

Diaz also noted the platform is perhaps even more necessary for the Latinx community, given the current circumstances.

“They're looking for that sense of normalcy – they want to celebrate, they want to connect and we felt like this platform was giving them the opportunity to do so,” she said.

“But we didn't ignore the fact that Covid-19 is happening; we actually launched with a story about how it's affecting undocumented immigrants, specifically within our community. Data is showing that the Latinx community is disproportionately affected by the pandemic. We want to be a source of support for them, and a resource and educational tool.”

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