Rupert Murdoch's tablet newspaper lays off one third of its staff after 18 months of losses and insufficient subscriptions
Updated 5:18 p.m. PST
The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s tablet newspaper, is laying off 50 people — nearly one-third of its staff – News Corp. announced on Tuesday.
The main layoffs will come in the Sports and Opinion section, where reader traffic has been the lightest. Fox Sports will now provide content to The Daily's Sports section. The Opinion section is being eliminated. The bureaus in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles are being shuttered.
“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,” said Editor-in-Chief Jesse Angelo in a statement.
A spokesman for News Corp. told TheWrap that they had not given up on The Daily.
"News Corporation remains committed to The Daily, and the publication will continue to be an important part of our leading portfolio of publishing brands going forward," he said.
Murdoch poured $30 million into the February 2011 launch of the newspaper tailored for the tablet format, transferring the New York Post's Page Six editor Richard Johnson to the new platform among other high profile staffers, in the hope of creating a viable, paid digital platform for the growing tablet readership.
Also read: Did The Daily Launch Too Early?
But the digital newspaper has had limited success.
As of February, the Daily had about 100,000 subscribers paying 99 cents a week or $39.99 a year and had about 250,000 uniques each month, publisher Greg Clayman told The New York Times.
Murdoch has defended the venture from critics who say that it has failed to take hold among readers.
Earlier this month after rumors circulated that The Daily might be shut down Angelo told his staff to ignore “the haters.”
The move comes weeks after News Corp. announced plans to split itself into two companies, one for publishing and the other for entertainment.
The New York Observer's Foster Kramer reported that the entire sports and opinion staffs were pink-slipped, along with some of the news team. Only sports editor Chris D'Amico, who was promoted to managing editor, will remain.
At the New York headquarters, news writer Deborah Hastings, news and travel editor Elizabeth Semrai, investigative correspondent Josh Bernstein and reporters Carmel Melouney, Emily Canal and Chavie Lieber were laid off.
In Washington, the two-person bureau — comprised of Laura Parker and 18-year-old White House reporter Myles Miller — is closing.
The Los Angeles bureau is shutting down, Johnson will remain employed and in the city, though the rest of his staff has been laid off.
The copy desk, the Observer reported, also took a major hit, though no specific editors were named or numbered.
At a meeting in New York Tuesday evening, The Daily's top editors told departing staffers they would receive "discretionary bonuses" from the company in addition to two-months severance pay.
The laid off staffers will be eligible for unemployment benefits when the benefits run out and they were encouraged to apply for other jobs within News Corp., though they will lose the severance pay if they take a different post in the company.
Here's the full news release:
The Daily, News Corp’s daily national news publication built exclusively for tablets and touchscreen devices, today announced content and personnel changes at the publication designed to streamline its production, focus resources on its most popular features, and reflect the changing business environment for news and media.
The implemented changes to The Daily include the following:
Ø A total of 50 full-time employees, 29 percent of the full-time staff, will be released.
Ø The Sports and Opinion sections, which saw the lightest traffic, are being reorganized. Sports reporting will now be provided by content partners, like Fox Sports, while existing features like photo galleries and the ability to track favorite teams via a customizable sports page will remain. The Daily will no longer have a standalone Opinion section. Opinion pieces and editorials will appear in the news pages, clearly marked, from time to time as appropriate.
Ø The Daily will move to a portrait-only orientation – the mode in which the vast majority of its readers view content – though video will still be viewable in landscape mode.
Ø The Daily will continue to invest in the content its readers use the most: original reporting, strong visual elements, great photography and video, award-winning design, infographics, and interactivity. These are the features that continue to make The Daily unique and that have seen heaviest traffic; they will make up a greater percentage of each edition going forward.
“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,” said Editor-in-Chief Jesse Angelo. “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. These moves were driven by the needs of the business. The Daily is the first of its kind, and it remains the best of its class. We are still in the infancy of this innovative new media platform, but we have delivered excellent content, steadily increasing readership, quality reporting, and award-winning design. Our standards will not diminish as we move forward, nor will our enthusiasm for creating an outstanding daily digital publication.”
“We continue to believe in the future of tablet publications because we know the market for tablets and touchscreen devices will only expand,” said Publisher Greg Clayman. “As more and more people buy and use tablets in their daily lives, The Daily will grow with them. We have consistently remained one of the top-ranked paid news apps since our launch, we have steadily grown our subscriber base, and we have the world’s largest media and publishing company behind us. Like all good digital products, however, we must change and evolve to remain fresh, competitive and sustainable.”
About The Daily
The Daily is the first-of-its-kind daily national news publication built exclusively as an application for tablet computing. It provides readers the engaging experience of a magazine combined with the immediacy of the web and the need-to-know content of a newspaper, all while elevating user experience beyond the printed word. The Daily is a subscription-based news product, published 365 days a year, at the cost of $0.99 cents a week or $39.99 a year. For more information on The Daily, go to: www.thedaily.com.
Alexander C. Kaufman contributed to this report.