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Cord Cutters News trims staff, lays off editor-in-chief

The publication favored by streamers will publish guides and focus on the production of YouTube videos moving forward.

The publication favored by streamers will publish guides and focus on the production of YouTube videos moving forward.

The Cord Cutters News website. (Screen capture by The Desk)
The Cord Cutters News website. (Screen capture by The Desk)

Cord Cutters News, a technology website that primarily focuses on news and reviews involving streaming television platforms, released its top editor and two staff writers this week as part of a broader editorial restructuring.

On Friday, former Cord Cutters News Editor-in-Chief Roger Cheng confirmed he was one of several employees to receive a layoff notice, affirming the job losses were part of a broader internal strategy change to shift away from written content in favor of producing videos for YouTube.

“I had fun learning about the ins and outs of the streaming world, and proud of some of the bigger stories I wrote,” Cheng wrote on his professional LinkedIn profile, adding that he would take “a short break to figure out what’s next” but was willing to receive tips on new opportunities.

The identities of the two staff writers were not immediately known. Luke Bouma, the publisher and owner of Cord Cutters News, declined to comment, referring instead to a statement published Friday that expressed gratitude for its current and former staff writers as the website enters its 10th year of publication.

“Over the last ten years, tens of millions of people have visited the site,” Bouma wrote. “Hopefully, we have helped them learn more about their options to watch TV and save money. As we get ready for our next ten years, we plan to give a renewed focus on helping people know all their options to save money on TV, phone, and related product and service reviews. Watch for more reviews, how-to guides, and important breaking news on our website and YouTube channels.”

Bouma launched Cord Cutters News in April 2014, around the time that streaming services began to gain momentum amid rising costs on cable and satellite television platforms.

The website quickly gained a following, becoming the premier destination for price-conscious consumers to learn various ways to save money on cornerstone and upstart streaming services alike. Media executives found favor with Cord Cutters News, too, as the website generally published their press releases without much modification.

In 2020, Bouma sold Cord Cutters News to Red Ventures, a South Carolina-based marketing and mass media company. The valuation of the deal has not been made public; The Desk previously reported the website was sold “in the mid-5 figures.”

Two years later, Red Ventures made the decision to wind down Cord Cutters News following its acquisition of CNET Media from Paramount Global. The deal included the website of TV Guide, which Red Ventures felt to be the stronger brand. Many long-term Cord Cutters News contributors, including former editor Jess Barnes, moved over to TV Guide full-time.

The website resumed publishing last year after Red Ventures sold Cord Cutters News back to Bouma, who quickly assembled a new team of writers. Last July, Cheng joined as the website’s sixth employee and its first editor-in-chief, bringing a wealth of experience as a large list of connections that aimed to bolster Cord Cutters News’ standing as a legitimate news outlet among readers and media executives alike.

Cheng’s stories stood out for being extremely well-sourced and offering a deep dive on the connected television industry at a time when it was undergoing a massive transformation. Earlier this month, Cheng interviewed a Google executive who offered insight into the company’s focus on the television set as a centralized streaming hub — one of the rare times anyone at Google has spoken candidly and on the record about the initiative. Cheng also published a scoop about a new free, ad-supported streaming service being developed by Nexstar Media Group’s CW Network, which the company affirmed two weeks later.

Despite his best efforts, the overwhelming amount of content on Cord Cutters News remained its signature brand of “churnalism” — press releases copied wholesale from public relations firms — and affiliate marketing, where readers were encouraged to purchase everything from laptop chargers to Huggies diapers.

Readers began to take notice: Last September, a user of the Reddit “CordCutters” forum opined Cord Cutters News had “gotten really bad lately,” and that the website appeared to be “90 percent Amazon ads.” Commenters on Cord Cutters News articles and its associated Facebook pages have also noted problematic articles that contain inaccurate information — an article regarding Mint Mobile mistakenly said the company was owned by T-Mobile (it isn’t, the acquisition is still pending; the article was eventually corrected), while another story incorrectly said Altice U.S. lost 54.7 million phone subscribers during its most-recent quarter (it was 54,700 subscribers; that article was also eventually corrected).

Despite the blemishes and spam, Cord Cutters News continues to court favor among thousands of readers, with the website generating “well over one million total page views per month,” according to a source familiar with the website’s operation. But Cord Cutters News has been afflicted with the same advertising woes as major media brands, with the slowdown in the ad market cutting into revenue, affirmed the source, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the company with a reporter.

Commissions from the sales of streaming services is also not as good as it once was, the source said, noting that the streaming market has largely matured to the point where consumers know what services they want to pay for. With TV and movie fans picking settling in on a handful of subscription services, few are switching between products, leading to a drop in both affiliate and advertising revenue, the source said.

In response, Cord Cutters News has started to ramp up the promotion of its YouTube channel , where Bouma produces a daily recap video of the latest news. His “floating head” style clips generate tens of thousands of views on YouTube, with each video including a direct link back to a Cord Cutters News article (even when the article is a re-write of a story found on another website).

The eventual goal with the YouTube videos is to find a sponsor that can help pull in new sources of revenue for Cord Cutters News, the source said. That, coupled with participation in the YouTube Partner Program (where video creators are afforded the opportunity to share in the revenue of certain advertisements inserted by YouTube), is expected to offset losses associated with advertisements and affiliate links that run in the website’s written content, which will shift more toward how-tos and guides in the future, the source proffered. (When asked if the guides will be written by human contributors or artificial intelligence tools, the source said they were “unsure,” but “probably both.”)

Cord Cutters News is also transforming some of its news content into Facebook Reels, with the hope that the Reels feature will earn its stories and YouTube videos more exposure on Meta platforms, the source said. That strategy began several weeks ago, and is likely to continue in the coming months.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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