Very few called it right first time with the new economy. The media industry led the rush to stock up on staff and exploit the potential of an information revolution but many have had to change tack, including media industry behemoth CNN. CNN last month axed about 400 people from its US Internet and television programme operations, just under 10 per cent of its workforce. 'It was a business plan adjustment mid-year,' said Chris Cramer, president of CNN International Networks. 'We are in very good company. You can't flick through the papers these days without realising that a number of companies have over-invested in the Web. 'We drew a rapid conclusion that we had to integrate and re-invent the past before we took a collective breath and went on again.' Integration is a key part of CNN's re-organisation to meet the challenges of an evolving new economy. Its first fully integrated newsrooms opened late last year in Hong Kong and London. CNN journalists will be trained to report for a variety of platforms, from the Web to television, radio and wireless devices. Such multi-skilling, it is hoped, will streamline operations, prevent duplication and bring the news to the public as quickly and accurately as possible. 'When CNN started 20 years ago we brought in good people and gave them different skills,' said Mr Cramer. 'Somewhere along the line we forgot our basic roots, which is why in the last six-eight months we have taken a very hard look at ourselves. You might argue that had we remembered our roots we would have not got to the position where people were going out to report for various silos in an unco-ordinated sense.' The concept of multi-skilling is not a new one for media companies. In 1991, the BBC, Mr Cramer's employer at the time, began using the same journalists for television and radio. In an article for The Guardian newspaper last week, Mr Cramer wrote: 'The introduction of bi-media working at BBC News was just a foretaste of what was coming and has now developed into a key part of the survival of the fittest in media.' Greater efficiency in reporting is not the only thing behind a streamlined approach. It also makes sound business sense. CNN intends to lure advertisers by offering bundled options with exposure to a range of media. It expects a soft advertising market in the early part of the year, according to CNN.com Asia-Pacific managing editor Bruce Dover, but hopes to cash in on a rebound in the latter half. Building a global brand is seen as key in a competitive environment. An aggressive regionalisation strategy has seen the company grow from one television network, 10 bureaus and 225 staff at its launch in June 1980, to 14 TV networks, two radio networks, 16 Web sites and a mobile-phone news service today. It has 3,900 staff and 40 bureaus and the brand is available in 13 languages. Thirty journalists have been recently added in Hong Kong, bringing staff at the regional headquarters to 85. The merger between parent company Time Warner and AOL, approved last month, is expected to add to its clout. The merged entity reported a loss of more than US$1 billion (about HK$7.78 billion) in the fourth quarter, its first results announcement, but has aggressive growth targets for the year ahead. In contrast, CNN International's English-language television business had a strong 2000 and reported revenues of US$200 million in 1999. CNN.com is the most popular media site in Asia, according to AC Neilsen research, and CNN International reaches 53 per cent of Asian business decision makers. 'AOL have made it very clear that they see CNN as a crown jewel of the acquisition of Time Warner,' said Mr Cramer. 'AOL is particularly successful in the US with 26-27 million users. But they are quite small overseas with only two or three million users. They will be looking to us to show them the skills and experience that we have internationally. From our point of view, we now have an Internet strategy which we didn't have before.' One example of CNN's efforts at cross-platforming is the recent re-launch of the CNNfn channel and Web site as CNN Money. In collaboration with Time Warner magazines and AOL, the channel hopes to gain an edge by offering personal finance information as well as financial news. Ultimately, CNN wants to attract an audience, irrespective of region, language, or the platform chosen. 'Business has to proceed with real caution when it comes to the Web,' said Mr Cramer. 'It is just another form of distribution. It is not a miracle unto itself. 'Evidence shows that people are bookmarking fewer brands. Our ambition is to be one of the bookmarks. In the middle of all this media madness, people will go for a brand that they trust.'