Questia.com, the online research site aimed at college students, has laid off 139 employees—nearly half the company's overall workforce.
According to Linda Cunningham, Questia's v-p for publishing, the move is an effort to reduce overhead in light of the tightening of the capital markets. She told PW that while the company expects to announce another round of financing shortly, it still must "be conservative with resources." She added, "One way to do this is to limit payroll."
The company, which has already raised about $130 million, was launched in January with a costly media blitz. Questia.com said it has had a "fivefold" increase in subscribers in the past four months, to 5,000 paid subscribers, which Cunningham attributes to the end of free trials for many college students and their willingness to become paid subscribers. Few new subscribers are expected over the summer.
The majority of the layoffs occurred at the company's Houston headquarters and were spread across all departments, including operations, engineering and marketing, and many linked to the digitization process for incoming titles. Of the 10 people in the New York publisher relations office, one administrative staffer and one sales associate were released.
Cunningham emphasized that the company is still committed to acquiring more titles for the site. "The whole idea of the cutback right now is to be fiscally conservative and focus our marketing in the fall. Right now we're trying to improve the site, make it faster and more intuitive," she said. "What we want is to focus on the tools and functionality of the service and achieve 100% customer satisfaction."