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AI-generated news has caused massive layoffs at CNET.

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The cuts come from Red Ventures; the media business financed by private equity that acquired CNET in 2020.

According to numerous sources with knowledge about the incident, CNET is conducting substantial layoffs that involve several veteran employees just weeks after it was revealed that tech site was covertly using artificial intelligence to write articles. According to a member of the CNET crew, there have been roughly a dozen layoffs or 10% of the public masthead.

Connie Guglielmo, the editor-in-chief at CNET, will also step down from this position and assume the role of senior vice president of AI content strategy and editor-at-large, according to a draft blog post that was distributed internally. Auriemma, the former editor-in-chief of NextAdvisor, a publication owned by Red Ventures, will take a position in her place. The brand Next Advisor no longer appears on Red Ventures’ list of brands, it hasn’t tweeted since January, and its website now leads to CNET.

The internal email from Red Ventures, the private equity-backed marketing-turned-media company that acquired CNET in 2020, announced the layoffs saying they would start on Thursday morning. An executive from Red Ventures claimed in the email that the adjustments were made in order to concentrate CNET on topics where the website may be successful at attracting traffic from Google search, which is a primary priority for the business.                                                                                  

“To prepare ourselves for a strong future, we will need to focus on how we simplify our operations and our tech stack, and also on how we invest our time and energy,” wrote Carlos Angrisano, president of financial services and the CNET Group at Red Ventures.

CNET will concentrate on “authority,” which Google uses as a metric for search ranking factor.

Red Ventures’ and CNET’s future focus, according to Angrisano, will be on coverage areas where the firm has “a high degree of authority, relevance, differentiation,” and can “make a significant difference in the lives” of consumers. When determining which content will appear high in search results, Google stresses “authority” as one of the measure for websites.

Former CNET staff claim that under Red Ventures, dominating Google searches by putting SEO first became increasingly important to the venerable publication. The business crams lucrative affiliate marketing adverts for products like loans or credit cards on these highly visited pages, making money every time a reader signs up.

Angrisano claims that CNET will concentrate on consumer technology, home and wellness, energy, broadband, and personal finance—the areas Red Ventures could make the most money from, according to a current employee. Yet, the staff member claims that those areas, especially the home, are only faint remnants of what they once were. “You don’t sell off your Smart Home, get rid of its video crew, and cripple your editorial staff if you want to handle that part the proper way,” he said.

Since last November, CNET has published counts of pieces that were produced using AI technologies, much to the astonishment of readers, according to a report from Futurism in January. The publication hadn’t made this practice official. Similar articles had also been published on Bankrate and CreditCards.com, two additional Red Ventures-owned websites. After criticism from the public and factual inaccuracies in tales, the corporation suspended the practice and pledged to employ AI algorithms to evaluate all content. More than half of the articles on CNET were finally corrected.

Despite the fact that Red Ventures placed the AI-generated stories on hold in January, the company is getting ready to use the tool once more, according to an internal meeting that took place in late February, as first reported by Futurism.

According to the memo distributed today, Guglielmo’s new position will require her to focus on machine learning methods for Red Ventures as a whole. The announcement of the news is anticipated for tomorrow.

Notwithstanding the switch to affiliate marketing, former CNET employees reported that since the takeover, working conditions under Red Ventures have gotten worse. Former employees described numerous instances in which CNET staff members were persuaded to alter their coverage of businesses that had Red Ventures ads on them. This was a blatant breach of journalistic ethics and endangered CNET’s editorial independence.

CNET’s senior communications manager Ivey O’Neal reportedly confirmed the layoffs. Sadly, a number of co-workers had to say goodbye as a result of today’s CNET Group team rearrangement. According to O’Neal “While it was a difficult decision to let employees go, we believe this is critical for the longevity and future growth of the business.”

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