Yahoo’s painful (deadly?) cuts

yahoo-signage Yahoo is having an awful month. First it was sued by a former employee, then it had an awful earnings report, and now it has closed down nine content areas: tech, food, health, parenting, makers, travel, autos, beauty and real estate.

“Global editor in chief” Martha Nelson (I put her title in quotes because it’s so hilariously made-up sounding), who used to run Time Inc. editorial, said:

As we make these changes, we acknowledge the talent and dedication of an extraordinary group of journalists who brought new and newsworthy content to Yahoo.

If that’s not a eulogy, I don’t know what is. It’s too bad: More journos, mostly in the New York office, out of work. They join employees from Rodale, Time Inc., Bloomberg and any number of publishers who can’t make the numbers work.

Meanwhile, this week in London, the BBC cut 1,000-plus jobs, and the Independent closed down its print edition, which will result in layoffs. At least in the U.K. they seem to have a humane acknowledgment that people will be losing jobs. Unlike in the States, where CEOs release statements riddled with meaningless corporate jargon like “right-sizing,” the director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, said:

I recognise this is a very tough message. I’m under no illusion that what I’ve said today will cause great anxiety across many parts of the organisation. This is a lot of change and it will happen quite fast. But I want all of you to know that we’ll handle this decently and fairly.

It’s a sad time for those who used to and still do practice the noble profession of journalism—or at least those who do so at legacy shops. My next post will be about how BuzzFeed, Vox, Facebook and Snapchat are adapting much better than publishing’s old guard.

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Amazon goes back to the future

dbpix-company-borders-tmagArticleAmazon is opening brick and mortar stores! “What a world, what a world!” to quote the melting Wicked Witch of the West.

It seems that after spending its first 20 years putting local bookstores out of business, the company has realized: Hey, gosh, people really like local bookstores.

I should mention that Amazon.com put out of business not just thousands of local bookstores but also countless outposts of chain bookstores. Mall standbys like Borders, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, B. Dalton, and Waldenbooks are for the most part but a memory.

Perhaps Amazon can lease spaces formerly occupied by some of these businesses. After all, “Their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores,” said the CEO of a shopping mall who has apparently been in contact with Amazon.

Maybe Amazon can somehow make a go of brick-and-mortar stores. Maybe it knows something the defunct bookstores did not. Maybe it has enough time and money that it can afford to experiment. Maybe it has a long enough runway that it will figure it out. Maybe it has some secret algorithms that can help. Maybe Jeff Bezos himself will be stocking shelves in the back. Who knows?

But I think we can all agree that it’s spectacularly odd that the company that’s probably responsible for people even coining the term “bricks-and-mortar” is pursuing this strategy. What a world.

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Yahoo for sale! Any takers? Anyone? Anyone?

Yahoo-News-Digest-Logo

Boy, Yahoo this week, huh? First the company gets sued for instituting a quarterly performance review system that an ex-employee says has “been used to fire hundreds of employees since [CEO Marissa] Mayer joined the company,” per The New York Times. The accuser, Gregory Anderson, who worked at Yahoo News, says execs there “routinely manipulated the rating system to fire hundreds of people without just cause.”

Two things stood out to me in the article. First, this nugget, which every time I read it brings a wide smile to my face:

Ms. Mayer has steadfastly refused to use the word “layoff” to describe the thousands of jobs eliminated since she joined the company. She even forbade her managers from uttering what she called “the L-word,” instructing them to use the term “remix” instead.

Imagine! “We’re sorry to announce that everyone in this room is being remixed.” What?

The second standout bit is this:

The court filing said that managers were forced to give poor rankings to a certain percentage of their team, regardless of actual performance. Ratings given by front-line managers were arbitrarily changed by higher-level executives who often had no direct knowledge of the employee’s work. And employees were never told their exact rating and had no effective avenue of appeal.

Uh, that sucks. My advice to Yahoo would be: Careful what you wish for when you hire journalists. They’re gonna do what they do. And you will be called out.

Despite its left turn into eye-roll territory with this dude also claiming so-called reverse gender discrimination, it’s a hell of an interesting turn of events.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter notes that “Yahoo’s fourth-quarter earnings were overshadowed by the company’s announcement that it would cut staff as it explores a sale.” (If you’re keeping track, that’s more staff than it’s already cut illegally. Allegedly.)

In fact, continues THR:

Yahoo has outlined an aggressive cost-cutting strategy that includes reducing its headcount by 15 percent and closing offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Milan and Madrid. Those cuts are expected to reduce Yahoo operating expenses by $400 million by the end of the year.

Jeez! That’s a ton of staff, 15 percent! We know from reports that this includes shuttering many of its “digital magazines,” and the company already shut down Yahoo Screen. That’s a lot of creative people out of work, which is really sad.

It seems that one bright note was for Yahoo was the growth of its new “Mavens” program, which somehow stands for mobile, video, native and social. Wow, mobile and native are growth areas? No kidding. Welcome to 2012, Yahoo!

I guess these kinds of good-idea-but-way-too-late decisions are why the board wants to sell, per Kara Swisher at Re/code, despite Mayer wanting to keep the company and keep trying to grow it:

Strategic alternatives is code for: Come on down, Verizon! Hey there, AT&T! All private equity guys welcome here!

I’m sure Mayer, like all of us, is wondering where it all went wrong with this venerable brand. (And also: WEHT Tumblr, man? No one ever talks about Tumblr anymore. So much for David Karp being the next media guru.)

I wish had an better answer than, “We’re living through a historic shift in the media and no one knows what will happen,” but I don’t. Meantime, media people: Gird your loins, prep your bunkers, and find a partner who’s a dentist or a pharmacist.

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