The layoffs, which affect NCN's news aggregation site, NewsWorks, were effective January 7.
The site aggregates local content from affiliates like Cox Newspapers, Gannett, Hearst, Knight-Ridder, the New York Times and the Washington Post, and has been struggling in recent months as some affiliates reportedly began to see the service as a competitor instead of a distributor.
NewsWorks' struggle sheds light on the problems many newspapers have had as they attempt to transform their print offerings into compelling online content. Newspapers have questioned whether they will be cannibalizing their print ad sales and circulation if they make a serious play for some of the estimated $17 billion generated by local classified ads online.
NCN was promoting NewsWorks last year as the answer to that problem, but is now shifting its focus to its upcoming HTML email delivery service and its existing affiliate advertising network.
Some newspapers who were less than thrilled with NewsWorks are lining up enthusiastically behind the HTML email delivery service, according to Paul Kessinger, senior vice president of marketing and affiliate relations for NCN.
The service, which is slated to launch its beta version on February 1, offers newspapers a way to deliver a daily branded version of their online content directly to their readers.
Kessinger said that the key difference between the service and NewsWorks is the affiliate branding. "The HTML email is essentially an NCN service, but it carries the affiliate's brand," he said. "Which should cause no problems."
Kessinger said he believes that this type of service appeals to both the affiliates and users because of the simple fact that it is delivered daily.
"For some people, [even] within the news organizations, who don't have a lot of knowledge about the Web, a daily delivery model is something that they understand," he said.
The layoffs, Kessinger added, probably will result in fewer special packages on the NewsWorks site and reduced weekend coverage.