Friday, November 18, 2005

Sobering news

Editor & Publisher reports the loss of 1,900 jobs in the newspaper industry this year, and maybe more since cuts at smaller papers usually don't get the publicity.


At 11/18/05, 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a generalization and there are exceptions (see Dow Jones, NYT) and there may be developments that by the end of the year force me to eat my words – but look at the companies on this list and look what they’ve done on the Web. Generally they are under performers. The most egregiously bad Web operation (outside of San Jose) is Knight Ridder – horrible, horrible cookie cutter Web sites with no real revenue model. The KR top-down approach to the Web has really backed them into a corner competitively. I know one guy who was working for a Gannett paper and doing a few innovative stuff (pretty revolutionary for a Gannett operation to let one or two lone wolves operate outside of normal corporate strictures), and then when KR took over, he became basically an empty shell on the payroll. All of his creative power was stripped away and he just became an robot posting repurposed content.

We have yet to hear of layoffs with the companies that have most aggressively pursued online revenue – McClatchy, Scripps, Morris, News Corp. and Washington Post. Lee, which runs a pretty tight financial ship, but gives its editors and site managers a little more leeway to innovate, has only announced layoffs at its largest former Pulitzer property, which may have been bloated by Lee’s standard’s anyway. Really, only the NYT stands out as a reasonably smart new media company that has engaged in layoffs – I bet there’s more to the story with their layoffs than just squeezing the bottom line for investors.

Of course, we’re in a turbulent time for our industry and what’s true today could be false tomorrow, but from where I sit it looks like the companies struggling the most (and KR being the poster child of the lot) are those that have failed the most dramatically to adapt to the changing media environment.

-- Howard Owens


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