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Mansueto’s Koten: Breaking News Doesn’t Bring In Ad Dollars, Aggregation Does

When Fast Company and Inc. publisher Mansueto Ventures laid off 20 staffers, mostly on the online side of the business, earlier this month, it seemed like a curious move. While the magazine side of business has been healthy, Mansueto had spent a much of the past year building up the digital side, including high-profile hires like Robert Scoble, starting Fast Company TV, and creating a social media initiative around Fast Company as well. So why defenestrate a chunk of the online side? In a Q&A with, Mansueto CEO John Koten elaborates on the company’s rationale behind the cuts, which he says was to tear down the walls between the digital and print sides.

Breaking news doesn’t bring in revs: “Social publishing,” or aggregation, is what pays, Koten says. And in recessionary times, that’s obviously more crucial. Koten: “Having regularly updated, fresh content is different than having people who are trying to break stories five or six times a day. I don’t really see us as a news-oriented media company at all. With social publishing, you could invest in technology in a way that can help to boost your traffic and on a dollar-for-dollar basis that may be a better investment than investing in originally created content.”

Creating a league of “super-reporters”: Koten is stressing the need for reporters to get out of their protective silos and be more versatile. “If I’m a journalist, I need to be able to do online, print, video, audio–whatever the heck is out there. I wanted to start a super-reporter program here, where we took two reporters from digital, two reporters from Fast Company and two reporters from Inc. and have them cross-train like hell to create a super-reporter who could wear all nine hats. Then I thought: Why shouldn’t everybody be doing that?”

The online portion: As a result of the layoffs and the nature of the business, Koten wants print reporters to devote about 20 percent or 30 percent of their work to online. He is also soliciting some advice from these reporters. “I’ve told every employee here that at the end of the year I want a memo explaining if [they] were an online employee how [they’re] going to contribute to print and if [they’re] a print employee, I want to know how [they’re] going to contribute to online.”