Updated: CBS Interactive Trims Staff, Cuts At CBS.com, CBSNews.com

Update: Some new info for now: CBS.com and CBSNews.com both have been hit hard by today’s layoffs. As I said below, CBSNews.com is vulnerable — despite what I am told were fierce efforts to the contrary by CBS (NYSE: CBS) News president Sean McManus, the site is losing roughly 30 percent of its already small staff — 15-20 employees. From one company insider perturbed by the spin: “No other old media company has scaled back their investment in online news. This is a first. That says everything you need to know about CBS. Inc’s commitment to news.” CBS Interactive head Quincy Smith’s name doesn’t appear in the official statement below but that insider and others believe he would rather not keep CBSNews.com at all, that it remains for PR purposes and because McManus and CBS News fought back. More after the jump…

As for CBS.com, given Smith’s emphasis on distribution versus destination, change was on the way. I’m told the cuts there are about the same as with CBSNews. The references below to the Bay Area expansion and Dotspotter have to do, at least in part, with shifting responsibility for the site.

Original: We’ve confirmed reports from Fishbowl NY and others that CBS Interactive is laying off some employees, although the specifics — ie actual numbers — are sketchy. I’m told it’s “small” compared to the current staff, which increased by at least 300 last year, but whether that means a couple of dozen or lower/higher is unclear. Huffington Post reports seven at CBSNews.com. No specifics from CBS, which is spinning it as the result of expansion during 2007 and as an evolution towards community building.

In a statement, spokesman Dana McClintock cites the acquisition of three companies in 2007, investment in 11 more, workforce growth of “hundreds.” He adds: “Along with the core success of CBSsports.com, new online sites from Last.fm to Dotspotter have infused invaluable DNA into the division, and are actively translating their experience in community-building to all of the Company’s properties and content. In the coming year, we intend to build on our success by expanding on that strategy of building communities online. Part of achieving this goal is reorganizing the way we do business to align the division’s workforce with our new vision, including increasing our operations in the Bay Area – the heart of so much of this activity.” Re the Bay Area expansion (not in the statement), CBS Interactive will be “moving certain of its employees to the Bay Area and possibly hiring more there as well.”Again, no numbers. Dotspotter is already located there.

The emphasis on “community” is no mistake and it also wouldn’t be a mistake to equate bringing in more from the outside with relying on fewer resources internally in certain areas — among them, news. It is not surprising that CBSNews.com may be taking the hardest hit even though the Iowa caucuses are scant weeks away. Consider the plethora of news and information from which CBSNews.com can draw without doing it all from scratch. That makes it more vulnerable, not less.

Disclaimer: Former CBS Digital head Larry Kramer is a member of the board of our parent company, ContentNext Media.


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