Sources say that in a final meeting held at the end of January, Shannon Steitz, the group publisher and president, along with Jason Lembo, CEO, said that they knew two weeks prior that they could not meet payroll costs but they continued to let the editorial team work.
MOD has a well-documented history of not paying its freelancers, going back to 2015, and has been known to counter-suE freelancers who take actions in efforts to get paid. EAL has been made aware of a number of freelancers who have not been paid in months and who are owed thousands of dollars.
According to a comment on Glassdoor by a former MOD graphic designer, the MOD’s management required its employees to write positive reviews: “We had to turn in the fake reviews to management for approval before submitting them to Glassdoor,” the designer said. “Management ‘punched up’ our versions, adding over-the-top positive comments. Then, we were required to post the final versions.” While the New York Spaces website and Instagram are still live, its Twitter account has been made private.
New York Spaces has been in circulation for over a decade at an eight-time frequency. Davler Media had purchased it in 2013 from Wainscot Media, then sold it to MOD.
MOD Media's president Shannon Steitz provided the following statement to EAL:
“MOD Media has been forced to restructure due to New York Spaces not performing according to projections. The June 2017 acquisition resulted in a substantial increase in liabilities for the company combined with further tightening in the marketplace and numerous clients’ inability to pay advertising bills. MOD Media executives are in the process of considering all avenues in order to keep this established and beloved New York brand alive, including the failed attempt of having offered a considerable percentage of ownership to the staff. The company is unaware of any relevant news published on Glassdoor.”
A New York Spaces editor confirmed that MOD offered the following deal to employees: they could continue to work for free in exchange for half ownership of the magazine and 50 percent of profits after costs. The deal was presented after employees unknowingly had been working unpaid for two weeks. Employees rejected the deal, believing that the publication would never reach profitability due to MOD’s outstanding debts.
Correction: February 7, 2018
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated MOD's purchase price of New York Spaces. The actual purchase price was not disclosed.