Key media companies cutting back online operations

The New York Times this week said it's laying off 17% of the workers at its internet division, making it the second major media company to announce online job cuts since late last week.

          The New York Times is laying off 17% of the workers at its internet division, making it the second major media company in the US to announce online job cuts since late last week.

          The restructuring move follows an announcement that Fox Television Networks owner News Corp will shut down its online division in a cost-savings move that will see nearly half the unit's 450 employees being layed off.

          News Corp says the operation of News Digital Media's three main websites -- FoxNews.com, FoxSports.com and Fox.com -- will be turned over to the individual TV networks with which they're associated.

          Times, a $US3.1 billion conglomerate that publishes newspapers such as The New York Times and owns TV and radio stations among other businesses, says 69 jobs are going at its New York Times Digital division as part of "a significant costs reduction initiative.

          "The layoffs are aimed at helping the online unit achieve a goal of becoming cash-flow profitable by next year," says Times CEO Russell Lewis.

          Steve Vonder Haar, an analyst at Boston-based The Yankee Group, says the pullback by News Corp. should serve as a warning to other companies. The New York-based company was a pioneer in the use of online advertising, Vonder Haar says . But it has been trying to make up for early losses in banner-style advertising with more complicated broadband video and audio ads, he adds.

          "This is an important signal," Vonder Haar says. "What News Corp. is saying is [that] after years of committing themselves to this vision, they no longer believe in it. That's sobering."

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