Tue, Feb 05, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Vice, McClatchy cap two-week job-cut bloodbath

‘DISCOURAGING:Thousands of workers at newspapers and online media have lost their jobs in the past two weeks, and ‘it goes on and on and on,’ a Poynter analyst said


The cuts just keep coming.

In a dark two-week stretch for publishing, more than 1,700 media jobs were eliminated at newspapers and online media companies through buyouts and layoffs.

On Friday last week, McClatchy Co offered voluntary buyouts to 450 employees, while Vice Media Inc said it will cut 250 jobs. Earlier last week, BuzzFeed began laying off about 200 employees, while the media unit at Verizon Communications Inc, which includes the Huffington Post and Yahoo, planned to slash about 800 positions. Gannett Co let go more than 20 people last week at its newspapers.

It is the latest round of downsizing in an industry that has grown accustomed to it. From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the US dropped 23 percent to 88,000 from 114,000, according to Pew Research Center. Most of those losses happened at newspapers, whose readers have steadily moved online, hurting once-lucrative print-advertising sales.

Newspapers have been raising the price of their print editions and trying to attract online subscribers to counter the decline, but outside of big publications like the New York Times and Washington Post, it has been a constant struggle.

“The discouraging part to me is it goes on and on and on, quarter after quarter,” Poynter media analyst Rick Edmonds said.

On the digital side, Vice, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post are all trying to keep their audiences growing after Facebook changed its algorithm to downgrade news. They are also competing for advertising dollars with tech giants that can target would-be shoppers with extreme precision and cheaper ads.

“They are getting their lunch eaten by Facebook, Google and Amazon,” Edmonds said.

The latest media cuts do not all fit into a neat narrative. Instead, they reflect shifting priorities and external pressures. Gannett, which publishes USA Today and dozens of local newspapers, is trying to shore up profit while facing an unsolicited takeover bid from Digital First Media. McClatchy faces a mountain of debt totaling US$745 million, according to analyst Ken Doctor.

New Verizon chief executive officer Hans Vestberg has made the company’s wireless-network business the top priority over Huffington Post, AOL and Yahoo, which were purchased by his predecessor. BuzzFeed and Vice have financial backers who want to see a return on their investments.

It is not all doom and gloom, either. The Los Angeles Times is on a hiring spree under its new billionaire owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong (黃馨祥). The Minneapolis Star Tribune, owned by billionaire Glen Taylor, has weathered the storm better than most metropolitan daily newspapers, Edmonds said. And TheSkimm, a daily newsletter aimed at younger women, has been one of the few digital success stories, attracting about 7 million subscribers as of last year.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible business,” Edmonds said, “but the misses outnumber the hits.”

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