Andrew Morse, executive vice president of editorial of CNN U.S. and general manager of CNN Digital Worldwide, said the new investment will be focused on three key areas: Web video, mobile and global expansion. CNN plans to hire more than 200 new staffers, including a mix of journalists, video producers, analytics and audience development experts and mobile product developers.
However, as a result of these changes, more than 50 CNN staffers are set to lose their jobs. This group will include people who have focused on CNN’s traditional desktop website, several generalist reporters and editors as well as employees from the company’s product, technology and operations, said people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Morse didn’t mention any competitors, but hinted that while CNN’s digital audience has long been a strong point, the company sees ‘native’ Web brands such as BuzzFeed and Mic.com as a serious long term threat.
“The world has changed,” he said. “Scale alone is not enough. We can’t fight the last war. The one for the desktop homepage--we already won.” He said the model of digital news that tries to “replicate a wire service” is falling out of date, as native digital companies experiment with other types of journalism. “We need to be as nimble and digitally savvy.”
That means building a team focused on mobile products, Mr. Morse said, such as a soon-to-be-launched mobile feed called “Money Stream,” which will let consumers “follow” different companies to create a personalized content experience. (This product is inspired by a similar one built for sports fans by Turner sibling Bleacher Report.) Plus, CNN plans to develop a 30-person team focused on using data for audience development.
In addition, with the new crop of hires CNN plans to build out a group solely focused on distributing and customizing content on other platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat Discover.
Some of the new funding and hires will also be directed at expanding CNN’s digital content verticals, including health and style. This will follow the same model CNN has employed over the past two years for CNN Politics and CNN Money. Since 2014, the company has hired a slew of prominent journalists (such as Rachel Smolkin, formerly managing editor of Politico, and former New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter) and started producing more original content.
That has resulted in more traffic and ad revenue, said Mr. Morse. For example, based on comScore internal data, since August of 2014, CNN’s politics section has seen its audience jump from 8 million unique visitors to over 25 million as of January (the 2016 presidential race may have helped as well).
Though he declined to provide ad revenue specifics, Mr. Morse said CNN brought in new advertisers such as Audi, Novartis, SAP, Microsoft and Fidelity as a result of the two expanded verticals.