The Outline (website)

The Outline was an online publication focused on "power, culture, and the future." It was founded independently by Joshua Topolsky in 2016 and later became a subsidiary of Bustle.[1]

The Outline
The Outline logo.svg
Type of site
Liberal news, offbeat, cultural topics and analysis
Available inEnglish
HeadquartersNew York City, U.S.
Launched2016; 5 years ago (2016)
Current statusDefunct April 3, 2020; 19 months ago (April 3, 2020)

The company did not want to be too reliant on social media distribution, but instead aimed to reach a "smart, influential" readership who would visit its website directly. The articles are visually interactive, and highly optimized for mobile.[2] The interface contains articles represented as a stack of cards that users can swipe through.[3] The company earned income by virtue of its partnerships with 10 to 12 companies a year, as opposed to reliance on a format employing traditional banner ads.


The Outline was founded in 2016 under a holding company named Independent Media with funding from RRE Ventures, Advancit Capital, Boat Rocker Ventures and Nextview Ventures. The company initially hired 10 employees and launched its website on December 5, 2016.[4][5][6] It later grew to 26 employees, having recruited people from news media outlets like Vox Media, Vice News, and Buzzfeed.[7] In April 2017, The Outline introduced The Outline World Dispatch, a short daily podcast with news roundups.[8]

The company announced a second fund-raising in May 2018 of $5.15M,[9] stating that it would use the money for "measured growth." U.S. broadcast television company TEGNA signed on as a new investor, having earlier announced a content partnership as part of the investment in February 2018.[10]

In June 2018, The Outline let go of a writer and editor from its Power section. Joshua Topolsky, the website's founder and CEO, characterized the two as "underperforming employees."[11] However, after receiving criticism, he apologized for his earlier statement.

Later that year in September, the website laid off two full-time staff writers and also planned to move its office into a co-working space. Topolsky said the actions were necessary to "move the business into a break-even financial position."[12][13]

Study Hall, a collective of freelance writers, expressed its disapproval with The Outline's layoffs. A Study Hall member told Observer, "we don’t want management to think that it’s OK to fire their employees and rely on us to pick up the slack." The group's members have pledged not to work with the website and encouraged others to follow its lead.[13]

On March 27, 2019, it was announced that Bryan Goldberg and his company Bustle Digital Media had bought The Outline. Despite the sale, Joshua Topolsky would still run the website.[14]

On April 3, 2020, executive editor Leah Finnegan announced that the entire editorial team had been laid off. The last article posted on the site was by Finnegan, on March 20, 2020. She would later go on to be editor of the Gawker website.[15][16]


  1. ^ Shields, Mike (2016-08-01). "Joshua Topolsky, Former Verge Editor, Raises Funding for Digital Media Venture". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  2. ^ "The Outline Is Making Visual, Interactive Content and Ads for a 'Post-Text' Internet". Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  3. ^ "The Outline Has a Flashy New Design But a Traditional Business Model". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  4. ^ Shields, Mike (2016-12-05). "Former Bloomberg Editor Joshua Topolsky Launches 'The Outline'". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  5. ^ "The Verge Co-Founder Josh Topolsky Is Raising Money to Launch a Media Startup". Recode. 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  6. ^ "One of the top former editors at Bloomberg has launched his new media venture 'The Outline'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  7. ^ "Vox Media veteran Josh Topolsky explains what digital media companies get wrong, and what his new publication plans to get right". Recode. 2016-08-02. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  8. ^ "Why The Outline's New Daily Podcast Is Rounding Up a Different Kind of News". Adweek. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  9. ^ "The Outline Raises $5.15 Million to Fuel Measured Growth". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  10. ^ "TEGNA Announces Content Partnership with Independent Media". TEGNA. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  11. ^ "Founder of media startup The Outline downplays staff cuts". Fast Company. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  12. ^ "The Outline Cuts Staffers Months After $5M Funding Round". Observer. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  13. ^ a b "Freelancers Revolt Over Outline Layoffs, Say Site Exploits Labor". Observer. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  14. ^ Kafka, Peter (March 27, 2019). "Bustle Digital, the company that bought Gawker and Mic, has acquired the Outline". Recode. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  15. ^ @leahfinnegan (Apr 3, 2020). "farewell @outline. we have all been laid off" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ Goggin, Benjamin (3 April 2020). "Bustle Digital Group lays off about 25 people, including the entire staff of The Outline". Business Insider. Retrieved 17 April 2020.

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