Update March 14th, 10:14 a.m.
Tony Dearing is AnnArbor.com's chief content officer. He posted a comment over the weekend on AnnArbor.com about the layoffs. Here's what he wrote:
While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don't discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things -- including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage -- that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.
We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we're seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.
March 11th, 4:53 p.m.
Ann Arbor.com laid off 14 employees this week.
The mostly web publication, which also puts out a print edition twice a week, replaced the 174-year old Ann Arbor News when it closed its doors in 2009.
Tony Collings is a University of Michigan communications professor and a former journalist. He says a lot of journalists and professional journalism organizations were looking to see whether Ann Arbor.com would be some kind of model for the future:
"Apparently it isn’t, or at least it doesn’t seem to be succeeding in a business way, and I don’t know whether it is succeeding journalistically either."
This week’s layoffs leave about 20 or so people in the Ann Arbor.com newsroom. Back in its hey day, the Ann Arbor News had about 75 reporters in its newsroom.
*A previous version of this story included a quote from an Ann Arbor business owner. We removed the quote because the owner was expressing his opinion about AnnArbor.com's business model in 2009 (as stated in the original report). After consideration, we decided the quote was no longer relevant.