Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Morning Brief: Gannett buys property, announces furloughs; WSJ says it's go digital or die for media

It may not have been the way folks would have liked the new year to start off, but I guess it's better than layoffs: Gannett announced last night that workers at its local newspapers will be forced to take a week off this year without pay some time in the first quarter.

"Furloughs, while difficult, do allow us to protect jobs. The staff reductions we have taken over the past few years have been very hard and further reductions are not our first preference," Bob Dickey, president of the division wrote in the company memo.

According to the APta, the division effected by the move is the community publishing group which includes over 80 daily newspapers. The division has about 17,000 employees.

The Gannett Blog, an independent blogspot site that keeps track of goings on at the company, reports that the staff at the Hattiesburg American were informed that they will not be involved in the furlough program, but instead will have their pay cut by 6.5 percent.

The blog quotes a memo written by Tracie Fowler, General Manager, which reads: "With the exception of the short-term gains we saw in for the 18 months following Katrina, our top-line revenue has not grown for ten years. We remain one of the least profitable business units in the company, ranking 39th among 67 sites in profitability. Until we can reverse our top-line revenue trends, we must seek expense cuts that are more permanent than a furlough provides."

Earlier yesterday Gannett's USA TODAY picked up a group of web properties which operate under the umbrella.'s 12 websites contain product reviews for such things as digital cameras, televisions, etc.

The WSJ contains a rather bleak evaluation of the media world. Under a headline of The Year Ahead for Media: Digital or Die a group of writers look at the different media segments and the impact of new digital formats and products, as well as many new business alliances that have begun because of the changes in the media landscape.

Space constraints limit the depth of the analysis, but it does look at a lot of segments, including music and film.

It was definitely a busy day at Gannett. USA TODAY President and Publisher David L. Hunke also announced yesterday that Tom Beusse was named to the newly created position of president of USA TODAY Sports Media Group.

“Tom is a seasoned media executive and we are excited about the experience he brings to Gannett,” said Dave Hunke. “His leadership will provide us with the vision to help grow our national sports initiatives.”

While I wonder why they have to create positions like this, it is good to see that Beusse brings to the company experience in advertising having served as senior vice president of sales and marketing for Broadband Sports, and having been in advertising sales management at Sports Illustrated for seven years.

Speaking of advertising: ProPublica said yesterday that they would begin running ads on their website, as well as their e-newsletter, mobile site and iPad app.

"We’re doing this for the usual reason: to help raise revenue that can fuel our operations, promoting what people in the non-profit world call 'sustainability'," Richard Tofel, general manager of ProPublica, wrote in an online post.

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news organization, will accept advertising direct from clients and agencies, but will mostly rely on the the Public Media Interactive Network, as well as representation from web ad sales from National Public Media, an offshoot of NPR and PBS.