CBS Interactive Cuts Jobs: CNET, Impacted

Updated: God, it is starting to get really really depressing! After the big cuts at Yahoo (s YHOO) yesterday, today the Silicon Valley was rocked by job cuts at CBS Interactive (s CBS) and its CNET division. CBS had acquired CNET in May 2008 for close to $1.8 billion.

My sources estimate that the total job cuts were around 20 percent of CBS Interactive’s total workforce – roughly 200 people. Silicon Alley Insider reported the 20 percent number earlier today, though CBS said that number wasn’t accurate. A CBS spokesperson, who got in touch after the post was published strongly refuted my report of 20 percent cuts and insisted that the number of cuts is lower. TechCrunch estimates that the number is 275-ish.

Yesterday, many CNET managers gathered in a conference room and were given specific instructions on how to handle the pending cuts. The room was packed; understandably so as the cuts are extensive. CNET isn’t the only portion of the company that got hit hard. Erick Schonfeld has been able to confirm that, a company CBS acquired in 2007 for $207 million, also saw its work force get trimmed by about 20 – roughly 20 percent – from a total of 95 employees in London alone.

Peter Kafka and Rafat Ali have reported the news extensively on their respective blogs and are following the story closely. In a feelgood memo, CBS Interactive chief Quincy Smith and CNET’s Neil Ashe tried to spin the news as a positive, extolling that the combined network’s traffic was up 30 percent since the merger closed this summer. Of course, it could just be that the 8th-largest Internet network got a bump because of the increased interest in the U.S. elections.

The troubles at CBS Interactive will be acute for the company, and are symptomatic of the broader economic malaise that is going to impact every company – big and small – including us. In the case of CBS, the impact of the merger and the slowing economy resembles what happens when a sedan meets an SUV.

At the time of their merger, I wrote that buying CNET made a lot of sense for CBS. Now, looking back in the rear-view mirror, it doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Of course, this re-org could be the first step in many Quincy and his team have to take in order to shake up the accumulated dust from the old CNET. By cutting jobs and doing a management overhaul, they might be doing just that – though at this time, it is hard not to feel sad for the folks who got a lump of coal delivered this Christmas.