Mode Media Fallout – What Should Freelancers Do?

Mode Media files bankruptcy and leaves contributors feeling like we’ve been hit by a Bernie Madoff bus.

On Friday, September 16th, thousands of contributors awoke to the announcement that, a site geared towards millennials that focus on fashion, food, and lifestyle articles would shut down immediately. The announcement went public the previous afternoon and employees were shown the door on Thursday afternoon.

Emails for workers were immediately shutdown and contributors came to the realization that Mode Media will more than likely NOT be paying us what is owed.

The site was a hybrid of sorts, working with freelancers and bloggers in several different ways. One was straight up writing. You create stories by building “decks” (an internet image with a couple sentences) of which at least 7 makes up one story. Some publishers have ads on their sites. And still others have campaigns that mode facilitates for brands. These campaigns can involve a mix of reviews on influencers’ blogs, social posts, etc. These contracts can be as much as a couple thousand dollars.

Sample dashboard for a Mode Media writer

How could a company valued at $1 Billion suddenly be bankrupt?

Mode, around since 2004, formerly Glam Media, had been struggling to secure additional financing to keep afloat. I’m not quite sure, how, with all the advertising, Mode couldn’t make it. As a contributor to Mode myself, I was paid late, and given the spiel that Mode Media was going through a rough patch and would be once again able to pay in the future. Being owed more than $1,000, I felt sorry for myself until I logged in to Facebook and saw the posts from several other colleagues who were owed much more, some $15,000 or $20,000! It made me sick to my stomach to read their comments.

What can you do now to be in the best position to this Mode Media Fallout?

  • If you are advertising with them, pull down all the ads (not sponsored posts) from your site, so they don’t continue to earn money from those ads.
  • Take out branded sponsored content not paid for yet. Leave the post up since you probably put a lot of time and effort into it. Just take the brand name out.
  • Print out any statements you have access to that show they owe you money. Unpaid invoices may be deducted from taxes (you need to talk to your accountant about this).

What can you do to protect yourself in the future?

  • Be aware. When companies have problems paying, it’s indicative of ongoing problems. If they can’t pay stop writing for them altogether or stop writing until payment is made in full.
  • Negotiate your contract. Try to retain the rights to your content, so you can take it and publish it elsewhere. – That’s the advice from Copyright Expert, Lesley Ellen Harris.

Here’s what influencer and blogger, Meghan Cooper of shared on the #ModeOwesBloggers Facebook group:

“While I’m all for getting in touch with brands, most of them do not have in-house marketing, so it is all done by a firm. The flow is something like this.
Brand —> Agency —> Blogger Network —> Bloggers.
The Agency that hired Mode is now freaking out because we have the option to pull all of our work down due to non-payment. This is regardless of whether they already paid Mode or not (and whether the brand paid the agency). These agencies are now liable for this mishap and could lose the brands business in the future. So while one brand (Open Road Films) got exactly what they paid for (us promoting a movie that is out and over). Other brands are losing money due to this closure as well like Ace Hardware who still has pending posts for publishing.
We have a good chance of getting the agency on record for the brand (who hired Mode) to pay us directly so that they don’t lose the brands business in the long run. (If the campaign was still open when Mode shut its doors)
Those of you reaching out to brands directly via social media just keep this in mind. They don’t do this stuff “in house” in most cases and hire an agency to handle it. Now that they are aware they need to talk with those agencies on the best course of action so it will be a few days for us to hear back from them. “