New York Times Plans Staff Reduction, Discontinues NYT Opinion App – UPDATE

UPDATE, 10:45 AM with more information about Times Premiere. The New York Times today reported plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs through voluntary buyouts and, if necessary, staff layoffs. At the same time, the paper said it will eliminate or consolidate online sections that are underperforming or failing to attract enough viewers. First to go will be NYT Opinion, a recently introduced smartphone app dedicated to opinion content.

NYT shares were up 6.9% Wednesday morning, though still down 24.7% year to date.

The New York Times Schools For Tomorrow ConferenceIn a joint message to the staff, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Mark Thompson said, “We are reducing the cost base of the company to safeguard the long-term profitability of The Times, not because of any short-term business difficulties.

“The job losses are necessary to control our costs and to allow us to continue to invest in the digital future of The New York Times,” they added, “but we know that they will be painful both for the individuals affected and for their colleagues.”

In his own message to the newsroom, executive editor Dean Baquet wrote, “I will use this as an opportunity to seriously reconsider some of what we do — from the number of sections we produce to the amount we spend on freelance content.” In 2006, Baquet was fired from his job atop the Los Angeles Times masthead when he refused to make continued cuts in the newsroom workforce. He took over the Times in May, in a surprise management shake-up that saw the ouster of his predecessor Jill Abramson.

The paper has eliminated about 230 newsroom jobs since 2008. but currently has 1,330 journalists on staff, with most new hires going for digital efforts including web producers and video journalists. In the Times‘ own report on the most recent developments, Sulzberger and Thompson said the cutbacks amount to 7.5% of the newsroom staff and added that the paper would continue to expand and invest heavily in “initiatives that supported its growth strategy, like digital technology, audience development and mobile offerings.”

They conceded that NYT Opinion has failed to generate much of an audience and that the cut-rate NYT Now was falling short of expectations. By contrast, the latest online offering, NYT Cooking, is currently being offered free of charge and two weeks after its official launch has had more than 1 million unique visitors.

“NYT Now is a terrific app and has struck a chord with younger users, many of them entirely new to The Times,” according to the message from Sulzberger and Thompson. “However our effort to define and market a lower-priced subscription offer on the web and core apps has proven much less successful. So we’ve decided to split those two efforts. We will continue to back NYT Now as a smartphone-only product, aimed at new and younger audiences and we’ve already begun to test other, more intuitive lower-priced subscription offers.”

About Times Premier, another recent addition to the paper’s efforts at creating more online income streams, Sulzberger and Thompson offered no figures but said, “Times Premier got off to a strong start and we’re now focusing more resources on improving and enriching the range and richness of the content available to subscribers of the product designed for our most committed readers.”

“There is no magic bullet for the current financial plight of the news business,” Baquet wrote in his note to the staff. “But the journalists of The Times, with all of their creativity and belief in the future, have helped guide this company through even more turbulent times.”

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