CNET hit by layoffs but says cuts have nothing to do with AI use

CNET, the tech news and review site of digital media and marketing company Red Ventures, has joined the parade of media industry layoffs.

The site cut 10% of its workforce, or about a dozen employees, on Thursday, according to a report by The Verge (a CNET competitor), citing an anonymous employee. A CNET spokesman confirmed that the site fired “a number of colleagues” as part of a restructuring, but declined to quantify the layoffs.

According to the CNET representative, “Today’s decision did not reflect the value or achievement of our team members, use of new technology, or our confidence in the future of CNET Group.” fired, we believe this is critical to the longevity and future growth of the business.”

CNET made the headlines after it was revealed that as of November 2022 it had used an in-house developed AI engine to generate 77 stories, about 1% of the site’s total content. That came after tech blog Futurism reported that CNET had been quietly publishing articles written by AI without anyone noticing. In January, CNET said it was halting its use of AI technology after finding more than half of those stories contained factual errors or plagiarized sections.

According to CNET, with the reorganization and layoffs, the site will narrow its coverage categories to five areas: consumer technology, home and wellness, energy, broadband, and personal finance. These are “categories where CNET Group has a high level of authority, relevance and differentiation, and where we can make a big difference in the lives of our audiences,” the spokesperson said. “We believe that success in these focus areas will lay the foundation for future expansion and set the right conditions for a high-growth, sustainable business.”

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In 2020, Red Ventures acquired CNET Media Group in a $500 million deal with Paramount Global. As well as flagship site CNET, the group has hosted other brands including TV Guide, Metacritic, GameSpot and Giant Bomb – which Red Ventures sold to Fandom for about $50 million last year. In January, Fandom made layoffs affecting less than 10% of its workforce at those plants.

Other media companies that have made layoffs in recent months include the Washington Post, Yahoo, CNN, Vox Media, NPR, BuzzFeed and Bustle Digital Group (BDG), which Gawker shut down as part of its cuts.