Northcliffe Digital is planning to axe more than 100 community publishers working across its network of Local People websites, Press Gazette understands.
Community publishers, who earn around £500 a month to oversee the hyper-local websites, were told on Wednesday and given between one and three months’ notice.
Northcliffe told them it was part of a wider review of its Local People network, but Press Gazette understands that poor advertising revenue could be to blame for the decision.
Some publishers have previously been given offers to run their Local People websites as a franchise.
Northcliffe first unveiled the community websites in the South West of England in July 2009
The first phase of the project saw the launch of 23 sites covering areas with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 that typically did not have a dedicated local online service.
By December 2010, more than 80 new Local People sites had been launched across the UK.
Northcliffe has said that the Local People network will continue, albeit with a smaller footprint. There are currently some 123 Local People websites.
It said in a statement: “Northcliffe Digital has conducted a review of Local People sites. From August 2012, dedicated community publishers will be appointed to look after a portfolio of Local People sites that sit within Northcliffe Media‘s overall footprint.
“The current publishing structure uses one freelance contractor per site. These contracts will expire in August.
“This approach means Local People will have the benefit of more experienced publishers covering a broader remit and will streamline the running of the business.
“Local People sites that sit outside Northcliffe’s footprint will be made available as franchises.
“The Local People websites attracted 840,000 unique visitors in May 2012. There are no other immediate plans to make changes to the sites.”