Microsoft is laying off many journalists and publication workers at Microsoft News and MSN organizations. These layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on AI to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in Microsoft’s various News apps. Many of the affected employees are a part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”
While Microsoft says the layoffs aren’t directly related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, media businesses across the world have been hit hard by advertising revenues plummeting across TV, newspapers, online, and more.
Business Insider reported the layoffs on Friday and says that around 50 jobs are affected in the US. The Microsoft News job losses are also affecting international teams, and The Guardian reports that around 27 are being let go in the UK after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to curate articles on its homepages.
The company has been in the news sector for more than two and a half-decade, after launching MSN all the way back in 1995. At the launch of Microsoft News nearly 2 years ago, The company revealed it had “more than 800 editors working from 50 locations around the world.”
The company has gradually been moving towards AI for its Microsoft News work in recent months and has been encouraging publishers and other journalists to make use of AI, too. Microsoft has been using AI to scan for content and then process and filter it and even suggest photos for human editors to pair it with. Microsoft had been using human editors to curate top stories from a variety of sources to display on Microsoft News, MSN, and Microsoft Edge.