Tuesday, January 6, 2009 2:07 PM
LiveJournal's Moscow-based owner Sup yesterday laid off most of its remaining San Francisco staff in a restructuring that will also involve the departure of VP and GM Matt Berardo after just seven months, we have confirmed. The rejigging means product development and design move to Russia, though servers, admin and legal staff remain in the U.S. The logic is "to more effectively manage costs in light of the global economic downturn", a spokesperson said. Now LiveJournal's finance and admin director Stephanie Gravelle and Sup's CTO Sergei Komarov will jointly head the site. Valleywag says 20 out of 28 staff are going. The number affected is "about a dozen", a fifth of LiveJournal's whole workforce.
After buying Livejournal from founder Brad Fitzpatrick in 2005, Movable Type maker Six Apart promptly sold the site in 2007 to the Russian internet investment vehicle, which had already run it under license and which also operates sports site Championat.ru. Since Sup co-owner Andrew Paulson picked ITV.com chief Annelies van den Belt to be Sup CEO based in Moscow last year, LiveJournal's legs have been planted increasingly firmly in the fast-growing Russian market. In July, Paulson told paidContent.org that LiveJournal traffic had doubled since the acquisition but the San Francisco team was being retained for proximity to Silicon Valley's development pool. Indeed, it hired Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) product manager Berardo away to run LiveJournal's US ops.
Berardo was on board as recently as mid-December so this is abrupt; the spokesperson said Berardo had streamlined costs during his time. But now all LiveJournal's meaningful activities will be run from Moscow, a move the spokesperson said would help it "build a stronger business model". Paulson last year said Six Apart paid precious little attention to monetizing the site so Sup has added more premium pay-for features and is striking white-label deals to power communities for publishers like Independent.co.uk and Gazeta.ru. LiveJournal may yet find more success in Russia, where online advertising is still growing strong. Sup has plans to roll out an Indian version, too.