Monday, January 14, 2013

Traditional, Print News on the Skids

Newsweek is dead - it delivered its final print issue at the end of last year.  It will technically continue as a digital-only affiliated with the Web-based Daily Beast.  Its death as a competitive newsweekly was hardly unexpected - the journalistic quality of its content, and its paid circulation, had been crumbling for years, particularly after the Washington Post firesaled the weekly for a buck a few years ago.

Time - the remaining "real" newsweekly magazine, is said to be planning to lay off as many as 700 staffers.  First, though, came a memo in which Time CEO Laura Ling cancelled the annual 3% across-the-board raises for the staff.  Now sources in the company are telling the New York Post that the company is looking to cut $100 million in costs, as a result of declining advertising revenues.  That would mean laying off about 10% of its workforce (500-700 positions).

Rumors of layoffs are also flying around the New York Times.  New York Magazine is reporting that up to 39 top-level staffers will be offered "buyouts" - and likely terminated anyway if they don't take them.
  Last month, shortly after welcoming a new, and extremely well-paid, CEO, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., told all of the newspaper's divisions to identify possible cost savings as an attempt to deal with rapidly declining ad revenues.  The one division that seems to have been spared is the highly opinionated Editorial section (opinion).  In addition, the NY Times' new CEO (see posts here and here) is talking about "reshaping the organizations' contours - including taking advantage of "branding initiatives" (i.e., "news" content tied to commercial opportunities).  If the coming layoffs in senior editorial staff isn't enough of a hit on traditional news values, the thought that resources are shifting to opinion and commercialized content is a further indication of the decline of traditional news in what had been an elite newspaper.

And now the venerable Associated Press (AP) wire service is selling sponsored Tweets on its Twitter feed, as it searches for new revenue sources.  AP's being dropped by some newspapers, and facing increased competition online.
Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing its social media efforts, (said) in a statement (that) "As an industry, we must be looking for new ways to develop revenues while providing good experiences for advertisers and consumers. At the same time, advertisers and audiences expect AP to do that without compromising its core mission of breaking news."
In addition, the AP has cut a deal with a posh DC restaurant to print AP dispatches, along with advertising, on diners' receipts.
According to the press release, the news receipts have several advantages over smartphones, namely that they provide access to the news “without people becoming absorbed in their devices as at the same time contributing to table conversation and interaction.”
The sponsored content is labeled as such, and the AP says it will be handled only by non-editorial staff, as it "hopes" to maintain the traditional dividing line between news coverage and advertising that had served the newspaper industry well.  Good luck, since the newspaper industry's been broaching that "clear dividing line" a lot lately (see this post).

Sources -  Time Inc. CEO Lang Grinches Staff, New York Post
Time Inc. Prepares For LayoffsMedia Jobs Daily
Major Shakeout Looms for Top New York Times Editors,  New York Magazine 
AP's Twitter to Begin Displaying Sponsored Tweets,  Mashable
Old Ebbitt to hand out Associated Press stories on customer receipts, Wachington Post Capital Business blog. 

editted - to add last source.

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