Frontiers Slashes Its Workforce

The publisher lays off 1/3 of its workers and reorganizes in the wake of problems with bulk publishing. Touting AI is another bad move.

In one of the most laughable examples of corporate communications, Frontiers recently announced it will be laying off 600 employees, reorganizing its management teams, and focusing on “quality at scale” after being burned.

I’ll let you enjoy their corporate PR unfiltered:

By the end of the pandemic, the publishing market saw a downturn. This reinforced the importance for resilience and agility amidst market shifts.  

These insights prompted a major reorganization in Frontiers throughout 2023 to form multi-expert teams empowered with AI technology to provide the full spectrum of publishing services tailored to our more than 2,000 academic communities. We also optimized our operational model and management framework to easily adapt to changes in the market.  

In the current market conditions, we are increasing efficiency further by proposing to significantly resize our workforce of about 2,000 employees across 23 countries to about 1,400 employees. Together with the management and operational changes made in 2023, this makes Frontiers a leaner and more agile organization, with enhanced financial resilience amidst market shifts.  

In other words, the glut of manuscripts around the Covid-19 pandemic looked like a godsend for us, and we ran with it, and made scads of cash off a lot of questionable papers. Then, not only did the glut die down, but we were left with major reputational issues as a lot of these papers proved to be unreliable and wrong. So, we have to cut jobs, and do a lot of things that will be more expensive because quality costs money, so, yeah, lots of things are going to change.

Of course, this echoes the travails at Wiley, which paid a massive price for dabbling in bulk OA publishing practices. Their stock tumbled, their CEO was bumped, the Hindawi brand was killed off, and the risk of Wiley itself being acquired was presented in a late-year analyst’s report.

Frontiers may put on a brave face, but cutting 30% of your workforce tells a different story.