About.com Cutting 10% Of Staff, Pay Cuts For Guides (NYT)


The New York Times Company’s (NYT) About.com division is cutting 22 positions — about 10% of its staff — and is forcing pay cuts on its contributing guides.

Guides will see a 7.5% cut in page view rate, according to a supposedly official memo we’ve obtained. Guides’ monthly guarantees will be cut to $675 from $725.

The cuts come as About.com’s sales hit a wall. About Group revenues decreased 2.9% to $29.8 million in Q4 because of a crappy display ad market. In 2007, fourth quarter sales jumped 26.8% to $30.7 million.

The memos:


About.com Guides,

As you know, About.com is an important part of an exciting, growing and
competitive industry. Among our many assets are some of the best minds in
the industry, a strong business model and expert content that helps millions
of users manage the challenges of everyday life. Despite the deteriorating
economic conditions that exist today, we remain confident about our future
and are committed to creating lasting value for our customers, Guides, team
members, and The New York Times Company and its shareholders.

In the short term however, we find ourselves in a position where we need to
realign the organisation to respond to the unprecedented economic turmoil
that is affecting organisations large and small across the country and
around the world. Over the past few months, we have taken a series of
cost-cutting measures in order to better align our expenses with our

Unfortunately, more must be done. In that regard, today we initiated a
restructuring of our organisation resulting in 22 fewer positions at
About.com. As a business that celebrates and promotes the importance of
people, this was an extraordinarily difficult decision.

In addition, we will be making changes to Guide compensation that reflect
the current economic situation. Specific details relative to these changes
will be distributed in a separate communication this afternoon. We also
invite you to join us on a conference call on Monday, February 9 at 9pm ET.
The changes will be explained in further detail during the call and you will
be provided the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns you may have
at that time.

We hope we can successfully overcome these obstacles and continue to build
on our many achievements.




As Cella mentioned in her earlier communication, as a result of a difficult
advertising environment we’re making a few changes to Guide compensation to
align our costs with revenue. Our goal is to continue to focus on growing
page views while acknowledging the economic down turn. These changes are
difficult for us to make, and not fun for anyone.  We feel, however, that
we’re doing the best thing for the company, and that these changes will
prepare us to succeed long term.

The details of the compensation changes are below.  We’re sure you’ll have
questions and comments about these changes, and so we invite you to join us
for a service-wide conference call on Monday, February 9 at 9pm ET to answer
any questions you might have.

** The following changes will take effect retroactively on February 1.
Adjustments will be made to your February comp notes in the next week:

– Page View Rates
Each GuideSite will see a 7.5% reduction in Page View Rate. You can do this
maths yourself for now, and your updated rates will be published in the comp
calculator in the next week (we’ll let you know when that happens.)
Additionally, we will be reviewing Page View Rates at the end of each
quarter (April, July, October) to make adjustments up or down depending on
economic conditions.

– Monthly Guarantee
The monthly guarantee will be reduced from $725 to $675. The $500 floor will
not change.

At this time we are not planning large-scale cuts in the total number of
GuideSites. The Editorial team expects to increase the level of support for
Guides in 2009, focusing on tutorials and tips to grow traffic. If we focus
on the fundamentals we’ll continue to grow our audience to take advantage of
the advertising upswing when it happens. These are difficult times, but the
About.com business is strong enough to withstand it. As always, we
appreciate your passion and commitment, and look forward to getting to the
other side of this economic down turn.

Conference call details to come soon.  In the meantime, please begin posting
your questions to the lounge-forum, or if you’d like to remain anonymous,
send your questions to Lauren.