Print Media Layoffs 2017: Time, Gannett, BH Media Group, and Others Feel Growing Impact from Digitization
The newspaper business has long been suffering in the brave new world of digital media. Print media layoffs 2017 have already reached into the thousands, with many outlets fighting to keep their businesses alive while digital media growth gnaws at its heels.
The principal difficulty in print media is that advertising is far less lucrative for online newspaper sites compared to that for broadsheet newspapers in their heyday. Reorganization and adaptation are the buzzwords of the day, but the industry is having intense difficulty in transforming formerly high-paying ads in the print realm into viable revenue streams online. This quandary has plagued the newspaper business for decades now, and there seems to be no end in sight.
From 1985 to 2016, paid newspaper circulation fell by almost half, down from just below 63 million to about 35 million nationwide. Revenue, as you can expect, tumbled alongside the flagging subscription numbers. From 2010 to 2014, total revenue for newspaper publishing dropped from almost $33.6 billion to about $32.1 billion, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study. The report went on to project that revenue would move lower every subsequent year, falling to $27.0 billion by 2020.
Grim realities and grimmer projections have led to mass print media layoffs in 2017 across the country.
Time Inc (NYSE:TIME), Gannett Co Inc (NYSE:GCI), BH Media Group, North Jersey Media Group Inc., Cox Media Group, the Chicago Tribune, and many other prominent papers across the U.S. have felt the pinch of waning revenues and subsequent cutbacks.
Meanwhile, the industry is also struggling to contend with the deterioration of the public’s trust in the media, while newspapers across the country attempt to maintain strong reporting practices with fewer resources. At the same time, more revenue-positive articles—often slammed with the pejorative “clickbait”—are increasingly being seen on the Web.
Not to mention, the current White House administration has long placed itself as an enemy of the media, lobbing the term “fake news” at media outlets that publish stories that put the president in an unfavorable light.
All of this combines to create a time of great vulnerability for the industry, which has contributed to these mass print media layoffs in 2017.
Time Inc Laid Off Almost 500 Employees in June and October 2017
In one of the biggest single mass layoffs in the print industry this year, Time Inc has shed about 500 employees since the summer.
The first round of Time Inc layoffs came in June, when the company announced a major restructuring plan that would shift its focus to video and digital platforms. This is a departure for the country’s largest magazine publisher.
The Time Inc job cuts were paired with buyouts that affected four percent of the company’s total employees, which numbered around 7,450 by the end of December.
The cuts came at print magazines, as well as in corporate and sales departments, with more than half of the employees being based in the United States.
The layoffs came at a time of searching for Time; two months before the layoffs, the board had decided to end talks with potential buyers of the company.
Time said in May that it would produce over 50,000 videos and more than 1,500 hours of live programming in 2017, in a clear shift away from its traditional print magazine focus.
Following the first 300 or so job losses, Time then announced more layoffs in October, this time targeting about 200 jobs, at least half of which were in the editorial ranks.
One major part of the restructuring involves the sale of the “Time UK” division. Other attempts to sell off parts of the company, like its customer service center in Tampa for $300.0 million, have reportedly not gone well. That center employs about 700 people.
Time has floundered on the stock market, especially compared to other companies that have seen large gains in 2017. Its stock has fallen nearly 40% since the beginning of the year, while the most recent quarterly results showed a $52.0-million decline in advertising revenue, which is a drop of 12% year-over-year.
Revenue overall dipped by $75.0 million, which amounts to a 10% fall from the year earlier. Circulation also fell by about 12% year-over-year. The Time layoffs represent the largest print media cuts in 2017 so far.
Gannett Laid Off 298 Staff in August and September
The Gannett job cuts numbered 298 last summer, accounting for almost a one-percent reduction of its total workforce as it engaged in a company-wide reorganization.
The first round of job cuts resulted in about 210 employees being let go across the company. These cuts were preceded by a first-quarter earnings report that showed a print advertising revenue decline of 17.7% compared to the previous year, while circulation revenues were down eight percent from Q1 2016.
Gannett, which is America’s largest publisher, owns USA Today and 109 local news properties.
The second round of layoffs were in Gannett Nashville, where 88 employees were shed from a local design studio team that worked with publications like The Tennessean and smaller community newspapers.
Gannett stock is down nearly 12% year-to-date.
Berkshire Hathaway’s BH Media Group Laid Off 289 in 2017
Berkshire Hathaway Inc went ahead with 289 job cuts at its BG Media Group in response to declining circulation and revenue.
BH Media was formed in 2012 as the newspaper division of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company headed by the famous investor Warren Buffett. BH Media now employs about 4,450 people.
Terry Kroeger, president and chief executive of BH Media, wrote in a memo that cost reductions were necessary for the company to remain profitable.
The World-Herald is the largest publication in the group, with a weekday circulation of 99,100 and a Sunday circulation of 124,000 (as of 2016). That amounts to a 6.1% drop-off on weekdays and a 7.3% fall on Sundays from the 2015 figures.
North Jersey Media Group Cut 141 Jobs in 2017
As many as 141 people were left unemployed due to The North Jersey Media Group (NJMG) job cuts in 2017, another addition to the print media cuts 2017.
NJMG President Nancy Meyer wrote in a memo that the company would be “initiating a series of staff reductions which, while painful, are necessary for the long-term growth of North Jersey Media Group.” Meyer continued, “We are confident the new staffing levels will enable us to efficiently deliver the highest quality journalistic product to our readers and expand strongly into new digital platforms.”
NJMG runs the Bergen Record, the Herald News of Passaic County, NorthJersey.com, and a community news group with about 30 titles. It was purchased by Gannett last summer, which resulted in a further 100 jobs being lost.
Cox Media Group Eliminated 135 Franklin, Ohio Jobs in 2017
The Cox Media Group job cuts were a result of its newspaper printing plant closure in Franklin, Ohio.
About 75 full-time and 60 part-time employees were culled. The printing facility served three daily publications and several weekly publications that will now be printed at Gannett’s Indianapolis newspaper plant, with the Franklin layoffs being permanent as the jobs are outsourced out of state.
Many Print Media Companies Closed or Downsized in 2017
The print media layoffs 2017 did not stop with the companies mentioned above. Many other publications have had a difficult year dealing with the drop in revenue, circulation, and advertising—and with the overall shift that has taken the industry toward digital platforms.
The Dallas Morning layoffs were the result of the newspaper layout and design team being outsourced to an Austin, Texas company, leading to 20 layoffs.
“While we have managed to keep our year-over-year revenue declines lower than most publicly reporting newspaper companies, our total revenues are still declining. So I need to tell you about some difficult but necessary changes we’re making in the newsroom in order to help the company continue to align its revenues with its expenses,” wrote Editor Mike Wilson in a memo.
Of the 17 union workers, the Village Voice laid off 13. These cuts included a writer, social media producer, an administrative assistant, and a photo editor. This came about a week after an announcement that the publication would end its print edition and move to online-only.
Layoffs at the magazine Nylon impacted the 12 print staffers as the company moved to become a digital-exclusive publication. “We would like to thank those employees for their dedication in keeping Nylon continuously ahead of the curve,” said Nylon Media executive chairman Marc Luzzatto in an announcement. “As platforms emerge and change, our voice, content and brand keep getting stronger, as do our array of marketing solutions.”
Chicago Tribune layoffs hit an estimated 14 people from the newspaper side of the business, with more potential layoffs in other areas of the company. “We are making significant strides toward establishing a business model that will allow us to grow as we transition our newsroom for a digital audience.” read a memo released alongside the layoff announcements.
Baltimore’s City Paper will be shutting its doors in 2019, leading to dozens of layoffs should the publication be unable to find a buyer.
Layoffs at Condé Nast will affect about 80 people as the print edition of Teen Vogue is being phased out in favor of a digital-only edition.
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“BH Media cuts 289 jobs; none are at World-Herald,” Omaha World-Herald, April 4, 2017.
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