Media Insider: A Week of Newsroom Layoffs, CNET Ends AI-Generated Stories

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

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Washington Post lays off 20 newsroom employees, shuts down gaming section
CNN | Oliver Darcy

In a move that was expected since a December announcement, The Washington Post began conducting layoffs this week. The newspaper cut 20 roles and identified 30 open roles that it will no longer fill. The Post also pulled the plug on its gaming vertical, Launcher, which debuted in 2019. “While such changes are not easy, evolution is necessary for us to stay competitive, and the economic climate has guided our decision to act now,” executive editor Sally Buzbee said. She said affected employees are being offered severance and are eligible to apply for other open roles. The Washington Post Guild said in a statement, “We’re devastated for our colleagues and angered by the irresponsible and illogical decision making from The Post. But we’re not done fighting or standing up for each other.”

It was a particularly bad week for media layoffs, with other cuts announced at Vox, AdWeek, and Spotify.

AP goes after ads with website redesign
Axios | Sara Fischer

The Associated Press is looking to boost consumer traffic and make advertising a more substantial part of its revenue stream, executives told Axios this week. The majority of the company’s revenue (82%) comes from licensing its content to other newsrooms, while less than 10% comes from advertising. To help address this large growth opportunity, AP has hired Saeed Ahmed, formerly with the BBC, as vice president of digital platforms. In the new role, Ahmed will be responsible for boosting engagement on the company’s consumer-facing channels – like its website and app – by discovering ways to better package the AP’s content. He will be hiring for new roles on the digital team.

Wikipedia is also getting a new look to make the site easier to use and more welcoming to readers.

CNET Halts Use Of AI To Write Stories
MediaPost | Ray Schultz

CNET is backing off its use of AI to write stories, a practice it started “quietly” last year for financial explainer stories. Bankrate and are also halting the practice. In all, more than 70 AI stories were reportedly published by CNET. The Verge reported that editors were able to use a combination of their own writing and AI-generated text. But observers worry that the use of AI may fill the internet with misinformation and outright spamming, a worry that gained steam as Google apparently reversed its position against AI-generated content. Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liasion, said, “Our ranking team focuses on the usefulness of content, rather than how the content is produced. This allows us to create solutions that aim to reduce all types of unhelpful content in Search, whether it’s produced by humans or through automated processes.”

Related: Futurism reports that many of the AI-generated articles from CNET were riddled with plagiarism. And in case you missed it, Getty Images is suing Stability AI for allegedly scraping millions of images from its site.

The Billionaire Era in News is Fizzling
Semafor | Ben Smith

Over the last decade, billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Mark Benioff came to the rescue of American journalism by spending millions to purchase the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, and Time, respectively. While they and others have mostly been able to protect journalists’ jobs and avoid meddling in editorial operations, they haven’t been able to revolutionize the outlets’ business models as they originally promised. They’re now facing questions of strategy and morale. “I’m guessing that it’s proven difficult for them all because it is the sort of business that needs and deserves full attention,” said Craigslist founder and journalism advocate Craig Newmark. “People in business who don’t know anything about media might perceive it as easy — in that case they just haven’t done their homework.”

Read next: Vice Media is restarting its sale process and may fetch less than $1 billion, a steep drop from its $5.7 billion valuation in 2017.

Trump wants to ditch his deal to post first on Truth Social and return to Twitter, report says
Insider | Mia Jankowicz

Former President Donald Trump is preparing for a return to Twitter, a plan that includes dropping his exclusivity agreement with Truth Social, his own platform. The agreement, which is up for renewal in June, requires Trump to wait six hours after posting on Truth Social before posting the same content on other social media platforms. The agreement only applies to non-political content. Trump was kicked off of Twitter shortly after the January 6 Capitol riot and was reinstated in mid-November after Elon Musk’s takeover of the company. The possible return to Twitter – where Trump has 88 million followers, compared to about 5 million on Truth Social – comes ahead of the 2024 presidential election cycle, which is expected to heat up in June.

ICYMI: Meta announced it will reinstate Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram “in the coming weeks.”

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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.

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