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HBO's Volume.com slashes work force

A Web site geared toward young urbanites and funded by Home Box Office has slashed about 30 percent of its work force--before its launch.

Volume.com, a newly formed HBO urban content company, has slashed about 30 percent of its work force--before its launch.

The company, which plans to cater urban cultural news to 18- to 25-year-olds, laid off 18 to 22 editors and producers yesterday, sources said. Company executives were not available to comment.

The New York-based site was formed last year and funded by Home Box Office, a unit of media giant Time Warner. HBO, a cable network, has managed to gain success at producing original TV shows such as "Sex and the City," but its ability to mirror that success online with an original content site has yet to be seen.

Although employees were told the cuts were a result of a budget shortfall, one employee was more skeptical.

"It doesn't know what it wants to be," said a source. "Will it be about having content, or just a site full of hyperlinks to someplace else? That question hasn't been answered."

Last spring, employees began to suspect there were problems. Launch dates were repeatedly pushed back, bickering over the focus and amount of content to be posted began to erupt, and McLean Greaves, Volume's chief of content, resigned in June, sources said.

Employees who remain with the company are somewhat skeptical of its future prospects. Said one source: "They could shut (it) down completely...This didn't have to happen."