MSNBC.com TO REDUCE SPENDING

By: Staff Reports

Online News Site Doesn’t Expect Layoffs … For Now


Dot-com employees can’t help but wonder about job security in the
Internet fallout. At MSNBC.com, workers have anxiously watched
major competitors, such as CNN.com and FOXnews.com make cuts. But
MSNBC.com management is reassuring staffers that belt-tightening
is all that’s in store for them right now.

“Over the past six months we have seen a tightening of revenue in
the marketplace,” General Manager John Nicol wrote in an e-mail
to MSNBC.com employees last Friday. “With that in mind I have
asked the executive staff at MSNBC to tighten belts around the
company.”

“We’re certainly not reducing our coverage of news,” said Nicol,
when E&P asked him about the letter. Several hundred
employees work for MSNBC.com, which shares bureaus with NBC News
to complement newsgathering efforts.

For MSNBC.com, the past year had some months with record
profitability, but other months fell short. Although planning is
not completed, targeted cuts will be made in travel and
entertainment, freelance expenses, and other discretionary
spending, Nicol said. Some open positions around the company will
be eliminated, but hiring will continue for critical positions.

“Our vision hasn’t changed in nearly five years and it doesn’t
change now,” Nicol told E&P. Of his competitors, Nicol
said their spending has been extremely extravagant. “They were
doing all kinds of things. It didn’t make a lot of business
sense.”

For Nicol, the vision at MSNBC.com has been to embrace media
convergence in order to provide users with interactive
storytelling. In pursuit of reaching that goal, MSNBC.com bucked
the downsizing trend on Monday by launching HighSpeed.MSNBC.com.

“There’s still a lot of opportunity in the marketplace,” said
Nicol. “I think the market is over-reacting.”

Nicol added that the market is still developing new technologies
that could make Web sites more efficient. Granted, that’s a bit
easier when you have Microsoft as your technology partner.

Technology, such as XML, has allowed MSNBC.com to produce the
site once for various platforms, thereby reducing the number of
people formatting content.

Still Nicol doesn’t think it is going to be easy. “We anticipate
even greater challenges in the marketplace over this coming
year,” he wrote in his memo to staff. But for now there are no
layoffs in store at MSNBC.com, easing the concerns of employees
who have been reading all the bad news.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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