Washingtonpost.com Folds Newsbytes Unit

By: Carl Sullivan

Updated at 12:35 p.m. EST

Washingtonpost.com is closing Newsbytes, the tech news service founded way back in 1983 and purchased by the Washington Post Co. in 1997.

Three Washington-area Newsbytes reporters will work for a new section, TechNews.com, scheduled to launch June 3, according to Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive spokesman Don Marshall. Five other full-time employees, including founder and Editor-in-Chief Wendy Woods, will be laid off as of May 31. Some independent contractors for Newsbytes will also lose their positions.

Marshall said the new TechNews.com will include content from the three former Newsbytes reporters, the Washtech.com staff, The Washington Post print staff, and the company’s other publications including Government Computer News, Washington Techway, and Washington Technology. Washtech, covering D.C.-area news, will continue as a section of the new TechNews.com site, which will cover technology nationally.

In a statement, washingtonpost.com CEO and Publisher Christopher M. Schroeder said TechNews.com will “report on the critical intersection of technology and government” while “covering the major national technology stories of the day.”

The Newsbytes name will only be used for technology news from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive that is syndicated to other outlets.

Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive isn’t profitable, although Marshall said online ad sales are well ahead of where they were last year. The unit generated $7.5 million in revenues for the first quarter, compared with $7.2 million for the same period in 2001. Washington Post Co. Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham told shareholders earlier this month that the online unit still has “a way to go in business results.”

Based in Minneapolis, Woods said creating and running Newsbytes “was a long fun ride. I would like to think that we made a bit of the same history that we were writing about,” she said. Woods launched what became the oldest continually publishing tech news operation when she was a TV correspondent in Silicon Valley. She was the majority owner in 1997 when the Post Co. purchased Newsbytes.

Woods said Newsbytes, which would have celebrated its 20th anniversary next year, represents a rich archive “as to what happened in the growth of the PC and Internet industries. I hope they are still available for future book writers, historians, and [the] public.”

Marshall said the Newsbytes archives will remain available through LexisNexis and other services.

Predating the Internet, Newsbytes came to be considered a boot camp for online journalism, Woods said. Its alumni have gone on to work for CNet, ZDNet, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

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