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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 15:17 GMT
Internet workers feel dot.carnage

by BBC News Online's David Schepp

For a year or two it was a one-way street.

Journalists and other media types fed up with stuffy traditional media galloped away in droves to sign up with the latest dot.com start-ups.

Now many are making a mad dash back - in search of job security, established management practices and in many cases a pay cheque.

But traditional media outlets have felt their fair share of internet hurt, too. Failure to draw substantive advertising revenue to their own web pages has caused them to pull back and in some cases pull the plug.

Go.com gets gone

Walt Disney's exit from its internet venture on Tuesday is perhaps the most celebrated failure of a media-related web site to pull in users and produce profits for investors.

Disney said it will cut 400 jobs and axe its Go.com leisure portal following concerns about the operation's ability to reach profitability. Investors in the Disney Internet Group (DIG), which has its own New York Stock Exchange listing, will instead get shares of the parent company.

The Go.com site lost money ever since its launch two years ago - not unlike the mother of all "e-tailers", Amazon.com. The firm said on Tuesday it would cut 1,300 jobs, or 15% of its workforce, as the online retailer tries to inch closer to profitability.

Good, grey and gone

The New York Times is another prescient example of a traditional media company who entered the internet fray only to beat a retreat.

The celebrated "Good Gray Times" shook off its stodgy image in the '90s, introducing colour photos to its print edition and embracing the web in several forms, including a site specifically targeted at high-tech news, called CyberTimes, and its local entertainment guide, newyorktoday.com.

Also part of its expansion into cyberspace was a stake in promising business-news player TheStreet.com. As part of its investment in the upstart, the Times established a joint newsroom and hired extra staff.

A revitalized Times Square is host to many dot.coms
New York's revitalized Times Square is host to many dot.coms

But in November, the joint newsroom was disbanded, and in early January the New York Times pulled out completely, selling its TheStreet.com shares with a "very small loss". On top of that, New York Times Digital, which produces the Times internet pages, said it was laying off 69 employees.

Sayonara CNN

Earlier this month AOL Time Warner's Cable News Network (CNN) unit said it planned to lay off 400 people or 10% of its work force. About a third of the cuts are coming from CNN's online staff.

Also in January, News Corp's News Digital Media was shut, axing 200 out of 450 jobs, while NBCi, the internet arm of General Electric's NBC unit, said it would lay off another 150 people following a similarly sized reduction in August.

All told the dot.com carnage has resulted in the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs in media-related operations, ranging from political and social commentary cyber mag Salon.com to DrDrew.com, an online disseminator of love and sex advice for teenagers and young adults.

What the future holds for the myriad remaining news sites has yet to be seen. But the day's of unbridled enthusiasm for cyber journalism has seen its day and may never be repeated again.

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Business
Amazon cuts 15% of its workforce
30 Jan 01 | Business
Disney's internet division closed
24 Jan 01 | Business
AOL Time Warner sheds more jobs
18 Jan 01 | Business
CNN to axe 400 jobs
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