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When Chief Executives Share Company News on Facebook

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RealNetworks, an online media pioneer that is trying to turn itself around, told employees on Tuesday that it would lay off 14 percent of them, or about 160 people over the next seven months, starting with 80 right away. Instead of trying to keep his e-mail to the staff a secret, though, Rob Glaser, the founder of RealNetworks and its interim chief executive, cut and pasted it onto his Facebook page.

RealNetworks made the layoffs public through filings with securities regulators, but the e-mail Mr. Glaser shared online provided a clearer window into the emotional impact of the layoffs.

“When I came back into Real after having been away from day-to-day operations for 2½ years, I thought there was a pretty high likelihood that there would be a day like today,” Mr. Glaser wrote. He said he had known it would feel bad for everyone, “and indeed it does.”

Mr. Glaser shared another e-mail to RealNetworks employees in July, informing them that he was rejoining the company as its interim chief executive to help it develop a new strategy. RealNetworks, one of the earliest companies to offer software for streaming audio and video over the Internet in the 1990s, has struggled in recent years in businesses like games, cellphone ringback tones and software.

In a short e-mail in response to a question about the Facebook posts, Mr. Glaser said he was limiting them to major companywide e-mail messages.

Mr. Glaser isn’t the only executive to turn to Facebook to share news. In July, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, posted a message on his page congratulating Ted Sarandos, the Netflix executive who cuts licensing deals with Hollywood studios, for reaching a big milestone in viewership for its movie streaming service.

“Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June,” Mr. Hastings wrote. “When House of Cards and Arrested Development debut, we’ll blow these records away. Keep going, Ted, we need even more!”

The post by Mr. Hastings raised eyebrows at the time because of regulatory rules that prohibit selective disclosure of sensitive company information. Netflix’s shares surged after the Facebook post by Mr. Hastings.

At least Mr. Hastings could argue that he did not limit the news to his circle of Facebook friends. The message was made public for anyone on the social network to see.

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