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GoPro lays off 7 percent of its staff, warns of poor sales

The company faces a 30 percent revenue drop from the fourth quarter of 2014

GoPro has laid off 7 percent of its workforce, and warned investors of poor sales of the company's action cameras. The news comes just a few weeks before GoPro is set to officially announce its fourth quarter earnings for 2015.

The company is also downgrading its guidance for the fourth quarter from about $500-$550 million in revenue to $435 million. GoPro blames that drop on what it's calling "lower than anticipated sales of its capture devices" in the final quarter of 2015. That would represent only 70 percent of the company's revenue in its big fourth quarter in 2014, when it pulled in $633.9 million. Industry analysts were originally projecting that GoPro's Q4 revenue in 2015 would be somewhere closer to $690 million.

Poor sales and no new flagship products are to blame

There are a number of reasons for such a large drop. The biggest might be that GoPro hasn't released a flagship product since October of 2014, when the company announced two powerhouse action cameras: Hero 4 Black and Hero 4 Silver. Those products sold well through the 2014 holiday season (2.4 million units in that quarter alone) and lifted the company to that year's lofty fourth quarter revenue number.

GoPro Hero 4 Session

The GoPro Hero 4 Session was priced high and never sold well

But the problem is more than just a high bar. GoPro only released one buzzy product in 2015, the tiny Hero 4 Session, a product that even CEO Nick Woodman admitted the company priced too high. (GoPro eventually cut the price of the Session in half before the 2015 holiday season.) Other company initiatives, like growing its media presence and starting a rolling fan video contest, have done little to bridge the gap left by product sales drying up.

As it heads toward that lower-than-expected revenue figure, GoPro is laying off a chunk of its staff. The company claims the workforce reduction is necessary as it heads into new product categories. "GoPro's headcount has grown by more than 50 percent annually, to more than 1,500 employees at the end of 2015," the company stated in a letter to investors earlier today. The statement goes on to say that the staff reduction will cost between $5 and $10 million (mostly for severances), and that it's part of an effort "to better align resources to key growth initiatives."

GoPro is changing its course in 2016

The "growth initiatives" part likely refers to virtual reality and quadcopters — two markets that GoPro plans to release new products in later this year. Woodman has been teasing the Karma, the company's first drone, since last summer's Code Conference. And at CES last week, he announced that GoPro is making a 360-degree camera for general consumers. (GoPro already makes two professional VR camera rigs.)

Entering those markets won't be particularly easy; DJI and others have a big lead in the nascent quadcopter market, and Nikon beat GoPro to the punch by announcing (and showing) its own 360-degree action camera at CES. Nikon also announced that it's making a "family" of other action cameras, though there's no word on pricing or availability. GoPro's success in either of those markets will likely hinge on the company's most valuable asset: its brand.

Correction: This article originally stated that GoPro's year-over-year fourth quarter revenue drop — from $633.9 million to $435 million — would represent a 70 percent reduction. It is only a reduction of 30 percent. The article has been changed to reflect this.