Juggernaut No More, About.com Cuts 22 Staffers

NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) guide site About.com is laying off 22 staffers, or about 10 percent of its workforce, Reuters reported. The layoffs are spread across ad sales, client services, marketing and editorial. After another quarter of disappointing revenue numbers, About.com instituted a pay freeze and reduced travel outlays, aside from other efforts to cut costs, to reflect its falling revenue picture. From the memo sent by new-ish CEO Cella Irvine: “[T]oday we initiated a
restructuring of our organization resulting in 22 fewer positions at About.com. In addition, we will be making changes to Guide compensation that reflect the current economic situation.” More about those compensation changes here in the memo.

The About Group used to be a fairly strong revenue producer for the NYTCo up until last year. Even when it was slowing, it consistently had revenue gains in the double digits, thanks mostly then recent acquisitions such as ConsumerSearch.com, UCompareHealthCare.com and Calorie-Count.com. Not so anymore. In Q4, NYTCo reported that About’s revenues slid 2.9 percent to $29.8 million, after marketers pulled back on display ad spending. Consider that in Q407, About’s revs were up 26.8 percent. And a little less than a year ago, in Q208, About’s total online revs rose 12.8 percent to $91.3 million. These days, About’s operating costs were up 3.6 percent to $19.8 million from $19.1 million.

Rumors have swirled around a possible sale of About by the NYTCo for the past year or so. And with the NYTCo’s pressing financial woes, a sale might have seemed like another good option to generate some quick cash and pay down some debts. But About is not as attractive as it once was.