The Daily is laying off 50 employees, yanking some original content

Rupert Murdoch’s struggling iPad (s AAPL) newspaper The Daily is laying off 50 of its 170 employees, condensing its sports and opinion sections and enacting other cost-saving measures.

The news was first reported by Peter Kafka at All Things Digital. In a blog post, Daily editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo confirmed the changes to the sports and opinion sections, and News Corporation issued a press release (below) confirming the layoffs.

Sports and opinion “garnered the lightest traffic and reorganizing them will allow us to focus on the areas that have proven most popular,” Angelo writes. The opinion section will be folded into the rest of the news pages, and the sports section will sacrifice original reporting for “[offerings] from our friends and partners like Fox Sports.”

As a further cost-saving measure, The Daily will be locked in portrait mode — though the company notes in a press release (full release below) that’s also “the mode in which the vast majority of its readers view content.” The Daily still plans to launch its weekend magazine, WKND.

The Daily, which launched in February 2011, is reportedly “on watch” as News Corp (s NWS) plans to spin off its publishing unit. In a recent letter to staff, Daily editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo told them to ignore “the latest misinformed, untrue rumors of our imminent demise.” The Daily has been vague about sharing its number of paid subscribers — the most recent figure is “over 100,000,” suggesting just a small increase since the beginning of the year.


The Daily Announces Content Changes, Staff Reorganization 

New York, NY, July 31, 2012 – The Daily, News Corp’s daily national news publication built exclusively for tablets and touchscreen devices, today announced content and personnel changes at the publication designed to streamline its production, focus resources on its most popular features, and reflect the changing business environment for news and media.

The implemented changes to The Daily include the following:

 Ø  A total of 50 full-time employees, 29 percent of the full-time staff, will be released.

Ø  The Sports and Opinion sections, which saw the lightest traffic, are being reorganized.  Sports reporting will now be provided by content partners, like Fox Sports, while existing features like photo galleries and the ability to track favorite teams via a customizable sports page will remain. The Daily will no longer have a standalone Opinion section. Opinion pieces and editorials will appear in the news pages, clearly marked, from time to time as appropriate.

Ø  The Daily will move to a portrait-only orientation – the mode in which the vast majority of its readers view content – though video will still be viewable in landscape mode.

Ø  The Daily will continue to invest in the content its readers use the most: original reporting, strong visual elements, great photography and video, award-winning design, infographics, and interactivity.  These are the features that continue to make The Daily unique and that have seen heaviest traffic; they will make up a greater percentage of each edition going forward.

 “These are important changes that will allow The Daily to be more nimble editorially and to focus on the elements that our readers have told us through their consumption that they like and want,” said Editor-in-Chief Jesse Angelo.  “Unfortunately, these changes have forced us to make difficult decisions and to say goodbye to some colleagues who have worked hard to make The Daily successful.  These moves were driven by the needs of the business. The Daily is the first of its kind, and it remains the best of its class.  We are still in the infancy of this innovative new media platform, but we have delivered excellent content, steadily increasing readership, quality reporting, and award-winning design. Our standards will not diminish as we move forward, nor will our enthusiasm for creating an outstanding daily digital publication.”

“We continue to believe in the future of tablet publications because we know the market for tablets and touchscreen devices will only expand,” said Publisher Greg Clayman. “As more and more people buy and use tablets in their daily lives, The Daily will grow with them. We have consistently remained one of the top-ranked paid news apps since our launch, we have steadily grown our subscriber base, and we have the world’s largest media and publishing company behind us.  Like all good digital products, however, we must change and evolve to remain fresh, competitive and sustainable.”