New York Times to Lay Off Staff, Reduce Number of Freelancers

Posted on October 1, 2014

Tough times in the news business continue. The New York Times announced that it is downsizing. Approximately 100 newsroom jobs, as well as positions from the editorial and business operations divisions will be eliminated. Staffers affected will be offered buyouts. If enough people don't take the buyouts, the layoffs will begin.

In addition to the layoffs, which comprise 7.5% of newsroom staff, the newspaper is shutting down NYT Opinion, the new mobile app which features opinion content. Not enough people subscribed, so it was cut, according to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Mark Thompson. Sulzberger says that the cuts are being made with an eye towards long-term profitability of the newspaper.

The money saved as a result of the cuts will be poured into the newspaper's digital offerings, which Sulzberger sees as the future of the Times. The focus will be on mobile offerings and finding new, younger subscribers that are willing to pay for digital subscriptions. That is going to be a challenge. Young people are not big on paying for online content, other than for games. NYT Now, another new app aimed at young readers, is underperforming as readers show resistance to paying for content for smartphones.

One digital success that the Times has had is NYT Cooking. That app is free right now. In two weeks one million people read the content. The plan is to grow the subscriber base, then charge for the app. The question becomes: when it goes behind a paywall, will readers open their pocketbooks?

The Times currently has 1,330 newsroom staffers, which is the largest number it has ever had. The growth has all been in digital content jobs, such as video journalists and web producers. Freelancers will also feel the effects of the cuts. Executive editor Dean Baquet sent a memo to staff which said he was going to use the layoffs as chance to reconsider the type of content being produced, Everything is on the table, from the number of sections being produced to the amount of money spent using freelancers. In his note to staffers, Baquet wrote, "There is no magic bullet for the current financial plight of the news business."

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