I agree with everything you've said, but I just want to point out that the previous model was probably never financially viable. I mean, paying $5-10k for a story that's mostly read internally, it's obscene. They were redistributing all of their revenue. The current numbers suck bad but they feel more like what these stories should be generating tbh.
Their body language is screaming 'there's no more cash guys.' I think they're pressed to produce profits, hence the pay cuts and the referral program. I hate how they're handling it with all "it's fine nothing's changed" flirting but I think there's a sad financial truth underneath it all