It’s been an odd few days for CNN digital journalists. Over the weekend, the network was criticized by a number of TV news hosts, pundits and fellow journalists over a web story that had the headline: Kim Jong Un‘s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.
According to Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, Time Warner is targeting cuts to CNN’s digital operation, and laying off around 50 CNN digital staffers later this week. “The cuts will affect employees who work in premium businesses including CNN Money, video, product, tech and social publishing, these people said. Several high profile digital initiatives are being scaled back, including CNN’s virtual reality productions and its efforts on Snapchat, where CNN recently nixed a live daily webcast after just four months,” he writes.
CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker has made a significant investment in digital in recent years, but not everything has worked. As mentioned, the daily Snapchat show The Update was short-lived. Then there’s the $25 million purchase of Beme, the video-sharing app created by YouTube luminary Casey Neistat. In addition to buying Meme, CNN went on to sign Neistat in late 2016. Both he and CNN expected a strong partnership as Zucker looked to build a powerhouse digital operation at CNN, similar to BuzzFeed and Vice. Neistat even made the cover of the March 2017 issue of Hollywood Reporter, which focused on CNN’s digital efforts. But Neistat’s tenure at the network was lasted just over a year, as he and Beme cofounder Matt Hackett left the company last month. CNN has kept Beme.
Nevertheless, the company says it’s still very much invested in its digital operation.
“We’ve been transparent about our strategy,” CNN comms vp Matt Dornic told Pompeo. “In order to innovate, grow and experiment, we’ve added more than 200 jobs in the past 18 months. Not every new project has paid off so we will stop some activities in order to reallocate those resources and enable future experimentation. Organizations that do not make big bets and continuously evolve are the ones that fail.”
While potentially laying off 50 staffers within a company of thousands might not seem like a huge deal, this raises a few eyebrows considering CNN’s significant investment in digital.