Some sources with knowledge of the matter claim that the corporation is making significant layoffs that include numerous veteran employees just weeks after it came to light that tech site CNET was covertly employing artificial intelligence to write articles.
CNET is using AI? But Why?
About a dozen individuals have been let go as a result of the layoffs, or 10% of the public masthead, according to a CNET employee. According to a draught blog post that was sent around internally and acquired by The Verge, CNET Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo will also leave her position and take the senior vice president of AI content strategy position in addition to editing for a wider audience.
Adam Auriemma, former editor-in-chief of NextAdvisor, a publication owned by Red Ventures, will take over for her. In addition to no longer being listed on Red Ventures’ roster of brands and not tweeting since January, NextAdvisor looks to have shut down. Its website now redirects to CNET.
Red Ventures, the marketing-turned-media company with private equity backing that will acquire CNET in 2020, announced the layoffs via email to employees on Thursday morning. According to an email from a Red Ventures executive, the adjustments were made to concentrate CNET on topics where the website may be successful at attracting traffic from Google search, which is a primary aim for the company.
Future coverage areas where CNET has “a high degree of authority, relevance, differentiation,” and can “make a significant difference in the lives” of consumers, will be the company’s primary focus. When determining which content will appear high in search results, Google stresses “authority” as one of the measures of websites. The company’s former staffers 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.
According to a current employee, Angrisano stated in the email that CNET would concentrate on consumer technology, home and wellness, energy, internet, and personal finance, the areas Red Ventures could monetize the most. Since last November, CNET has published a number of stories 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 public beforehand. Similar articles had also been published on other Red Ventures-owned websites, Bankrate and CreditCards.com. After complaints from the public and factual inaccuracies in stories, the firm halted the practice and vowed to conduct an AI-based audit of all articles.
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, based on an internal meeting that took place in late February, as first reported by Futurism and corroborated by The Verge. 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.
Former CNET employees told The Verge that, in addition to the switch to affiliate marketing, working conditions at Red Ventures have gotten worse since the takeover. In numerous instances, according to former workers, CNET staff members were persuaded to alter their coverage of businesses that had Red Ventures advertisements. This was a blatant breach of journalistic ethics and endangered CNET’s editorial independence.