Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Newspapers' collaspse reported by insiders, the cut that keeps bleeding

There's a group of people in the neighborhood discussing what it means to be a newspaper. The print vehicle, which currently experiences downward pressure on doorstep distribution, and the electronic version that competes with every other website in the information arena, bobble along searching for identity.

During the identity crisis, the dueling concepts of newspaper—print or online—occasionally sound like children asking, "Are you my mother?"

Except it sounds a lot like, "Are you my audience?"

What does it mean to try and keep a toe-hold in the current disrupted, disloyal marketplace? How does it affect your business model, your view of life, and the life expectancy of your job?

At the first sign of business distress, watchful employees will administer an online search of available jobs. Instead of finding comfort, Google produces an intense list of newspapers that have executed layoffs.

Another looming list appears when the eager inquirer searches for newspapers that have recovered from the economic crisis. 'Newspaper reorganization' produces items such as:
Baltimore Sun offers employee buyouts
Chicago Tribune trims staff
Newsroom staff cut by 25% (or more)
Calista Corp liquidates six newspapers
Gannet lays off 700
. . . and on, and on.

To adjust the toe-hold on the changing landscape, some newspapers have drifted from full disclosure to less than robust reporting, Inquirers now must rely on competing media outlets to post the behind the scenes events:
The Oregonian admits to more layoffs
Dozens laid off
Photography and sports departments cease to exist
Star confirms 52 laid off.

The business model has morphed. A little scandal now flavors the mix. Read Guardian Broke the News of the World Hacking Scandal and Santa Barbara News-Press Found Guilty of Multiple Labor Violations and you've got a tangled mess of journalistic pursuits.

More disruptions by the minute.

The reports from the newspaper industry get pushed deeper into the void because non-disclosure agreements buy silence as a condition of severance pay. Sub-industries have formed to bring clarity to newspaper staffers, as well as others in the community who care about what is happening. An intriguing site called Paper Cuts is found at the URL

Site owner Erica Smith, a currently employed newspaper multimedia producer (and print designer), tabulates the job cuts. She started her list in 2007. She moved the stats to a blog in 2008, and at the end of 2010 determined the total exceeded anyone's expectations.

Mid-August, Ericia Smith gave 360 Convos a recap of the situation:

2007: 2,293+ (not the complete year; project started mid-year)

2008: 15,993+

2009: 14,797+

2010: 2,907+

2011: 2,988+ so far

Total: 38,978+ reported layoffs and buyouts.

"I'll be adding more tonight."
And the bleeding goes on.

If you were handed a newspaper company, with the current business model, current marketplace and current life expectancy of the job, would you buy billboards and pass out flyers like the guild trying to save the Chicago Star?

Or would you try something else in this disrupted, disloyal marketplace?

Relevant links:

Twitter: @newscuts