Murdoch’s tablet newspaper ‘The Daily’ makes it official, announces layoffs for 29 percent of its staff

Jesse Angelo and Rupert Murdoch unveiling The Daily last year. ()
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Less than an hour after AllThingsD's Peter Kafka reported that The Daily was laying off a third of its staff, the News Corp. iPad newspaper issued a press release announcing "content changes" and a "staff reorganization" that are "designed to streamline its production, focus resources on its most popular features, and reflect the changing business environment for news and media."

Translation: 50 full-time employees, or about 29 percent of the publication's full-time staff, are being let go, while the sports section will begin to rely more heavily on third-party content and the opinion pages will be absorbed by the news section. Additionally, The Daily's layout will move to a "portrait-only" orientation.

“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 the recently married editor in chief Jesse Angelo, who just a few weeks ago batted back reports that News Corp. was deciding whether or not to keep The Daily afloat.

“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," he continued in a statement. "Our standards will not diminish as we move forward, nor will our enthusiasm for creating an outstanding daily digital publication.”

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Publisher Greg Clayman added: “We continue to believe in the future of tablet publications because we know the market for tablets and touchscreen devices will only expand. As more and more people buy and use tablets in their daily lives, The Daily will grow with them."

Angelo has maintained a stiff upper lip about conditions at the year-and-a-half-old tablet title, which has been a popular download in the Apple Store but nevertheless failed to rack up the number of early subscribers News Corp. was hoping it would at the time of its ambitious launch in February of 2011.

"It's going great," said Angelo during an Internet Week panel less than three months ago.

"As for the latest misinformed, untrue rumors of our imminent demise, I would urge you to ignore them," he wrote in a July 13 memo to his staff after The New York Observer and New York Times both reported that The Daily had in effect been put "on probation" by News Corp. brass. "The truth is we have over 100,000 paying subs who are renewing their subscriptions at a 98% rate and fantastic advertisers who love our brand and keep coming back for more because they get results. Pay attention to them, not the haters."

But scaling down The Daily does make sense in the context of the coming break-up of News Corp.'s profitable entertainment assets and its less lucrative publishing brands. The latter will presumably come under tougher scrutiny as a publicly traded company that can't spend the revenue from a giant entertainment division. The Daily is said to cost about $30 million a year with a goal of breaking even in five.

Here's the full release about the layoffs:

New York, NY, July 31, 2012 – 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:

  • A total of 50 full-time employees, 29 percent of the full-time staff, will be released.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”