The Daily Lays Off A Third Of Its Staff: Rupert Murdoch?s Experiment Goes Awry

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch. Reuters

In yet another blow to early champions of iPad publishing, News Corp.'s (Nasdaq: NWSA) the Daily is laying off 29 percent of its staff.  

All Things Digital first reported on Tuesday that the struggling tablet-only newspaper is planning to fire 50 of its 170 employees. According to All Things Digital's Peter Kafka, the layoffs will hit the op-ed and sports departments the hardest, with those sections being run as skeletal versions going forward. The cuts will also affect members of the production and design teams.

In a memo posted on the Daily's website, editor in chief Jesse Angelo confirmed that changes were being made to the opinion and sports sections, with the former section no longer continuing as a standalone. In sports, the publication will expand offerings from partners such as Fox Sports, but it will cease doing "the same level of original reporting."

The memo made no mention of staff changes, but the Daily's press representative confirmed the layoffs -- as well as the affected departments -- in an email message to the International Business Times.

"These are important changes that will allow the Daily to be more nimble editorially and to focus on the elements that our readers have told us through their consumption that they like and want," Angelo said in a statement. "Unfortunately, these changes have forced us to make difficult decisions and to say goodbye to some colleagues who have worked hard to make the Daily successful." 

"We continue to believe in the future of tablet publications because we know the market for tablets and touchscreen devices will only expand," added the Daily's publisher, Greg Clayman.

The staff cuts come less than three weeks after News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly put the Daily "on watch" as he weighed options about its future. Those reports prompted Angelo to send out a memo to staffers dismissing the stories as rumors. "As something new and different," he wrote, "we are an easy target for erroneous wishful thinking. But make no mistake, we will be nimble and we will compete."

Launched just over a year ago amid a flurry of hype about the brave new world of tablet publishing, the subscriber-based Daily has struggled to attract readers. The publication currently has about 100,000 subscribers, far below the 500,000 that Murdoch estimated it would need to break even. The Daily's subscriptions cost $0.99 cents a week or $39.99 a year.

Available only on iPads, smartphones and Android tablets, with select stories highlighted on the Daily's website, the Daily is drowning in estimated losses of $30 million a year. In June, News Corp. decided to break up its conglomerate, splitting its underperforming publishing side -- which includes the Daily -- from its successful entertainment properties such as 20th Century Fox.

According to the Daily, the staff layoffs announced Tuesday are meant to "streamline its production, focus resources on its most popular features, and reflect the changing business environment for news and media."

All of the affected staffers are full-time employees.

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