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Verizon says some of its media assets are so useless it won’t try to sell them

The wireless giant is shutting down some of its AOL and Yahoo properties. It’s also laying off 800 people.

K. Guru Gowrappan
Verizon media boss K. Guru Gowrappan
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Have you heard of WakingNews?

I hadn’t either, until today. Turns out it’s a Verizon-owned, Android-only app introduced late last year that lets you hear the “latest audio news briefings from award-winning brands like HuffPost, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Engadget, and more!”

And tomorrow, Verizon is shuttering it.

The short life of WakingNews is part of a much larger cost-cutting effort by Verizon, announced today, which will see some 800 employees in the company’s media division lose their jobs.

That’s about 7 percent of Verizon’s media workforce, which used to be known as AOL and Yahoo.

The cuts are painful but not surprising, since Verizon announced last month that buying AOL and Yahoo had been a very expensive mistake. The wireless company took a $4.6 billion write-off — about half of the money it had spent buying the two former internet giants over the last few years — and it was clear that layoffs would follow.

Now Verizon says it still sees value in its remaining business. Like everyone else, it will continue to “focus on mobile and video-focused products,” particularly for things with the Yahoo brand, per the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the cuts.

That seems more like a “since we have it we may as well try to do something with it” strategy more than anything else, but why not.

What was most interesting in the WSJ report was that Verizon media boss K. Guru Gowrappan has surveyed everything that his company owns and has concluded that some of it has zero value. It’s cheaper to simply shut it down than to find a buyer.

That makes some sense when you think about apps like WakingNews, which seem ill-conceived to begin with. If you have your phone, you don’t need an app like this for your phone.

But it’s more striking when you realize that Gowrappan is also talking about storied assets like Flickr, which was once a much-loved photo-sharing site and which Verizon sold off to rival photo-sharing site SmugMug last year.

Turns out that Gowrappan thinks that sales process took too long and cost too much money, per the WSJ. And that’s for Flickr, something you’ve heard of and may have used. Maybe you even still use it: Last year Flickr claimed to have 100 million users, posting “tens of billions of photos.”

So if Verizon thinks a property with 100 million users is better off dead than sold, think of all the other random properties it might have slated for the deadpool.

My suggestion: If you use an app or visit a site once owned by AOL or Yahoo, check up on it, soon, and make sure it’s still around. Then think about what you’ll do if it goes away.

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