CNN has been taking a beating from the White House over the last year, with withering attacks from even President Trump himself. And even though their ratings have increased since Trump was sworn in, they now seem to be pulling back a bit from their recent hiring and spending spree. Vanity Fair reports that they’re set to fire “as many as 50 people” from their digital operation in the coming weeks. A recent app investment looks like a massive failure as well, according to the inside info.
But despite the so-called Trump Bump, CNN appears to be re-thinking at least some elements of its digital strategy. I’ve learned that CNN, a key property in AT&T’s planned takeover of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, is targeting big savings on the digital side, with as many as 50 jobs around the globe scheduled to be eliminated this week, according to people familiar with the matter, who noted the exact number could still be in flux. The cuts will affect employees who work in premium businesses including CNN Money, video, product, tech and social publishing, these people said. Several high profile digital initiatives are being scaled back, including CNN’s virtual reality productions and its efforts on Snapchat, where CNN recently nixed a live daily webcast after just four months. CNN’s business-oriented MoneyStream app, as BuzzFeed reported earlier this month, is in the gutter as well. A team that works on the digital extensions of documentary-style TV shows, such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and Lisa Ling’s This is Life, as well as the Brooke Baldwin series American Woman, is also being reorganized.
CNN’s digital strategy has flopped in other respects, too. Casey Neistat, the YouTuber they acquired to much fanfare late in 2016, recently left the company after bombing at his attempted daily news program.
In late 2016, CNN plunked down millions of dollars to purchase Beme, the video-sharing appstarted by YouTube star Casey Neistat.
CNN had big plans for Neistat, a viral online filmmaker, envisioning him as a sort of digital Anthony Bourdain who could bring a new generation of news consumers into the cable news channel’s fold.
But now Beme, which CNN had hoped to fashion into an independently operated daily online news program, is effectively shutting down. On Thursday, CNN will announce that Neistat and his Beme cofounder Matt Hackett are leaving the company.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Neistat spoke candidly about his inability to figure out a viable strategy for “Beme News,” which CNN had intended to become a central part of its digital business. Instead, Neistat said he slowly, and frustratingly, distanced himself from his own company, retreating into what he knew best — producing videos for his personal YouTube channel.
All in all, the heady days seem to be over for CNN’s digital operation. Watch this space, as we will likely see more layoffs in the near future, possibly on the TV side as well.