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Slowdown: US newspapers forced to cut costs

Source: PTI
December 13, 2008 14:46 IST
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Massive revenue decline as a result of global economic downturn is fast eroding media's  advertising base, forcing major newspapers in the US to look for cost cutting measures.

The latest victim is the New York Times which told its print and web employees on Saturday that non union staff would receive no pay raises next year, Forbes.com reported.

The announcement comes a day after Newsweek was reported to have been considering reducing staff and cutting print order for the magazine.

"Advertising revenues at both the paper and the website remain weak and the financial outlook for 2009 is daunting," the staff was told in an internal e-mail from Times' publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, which Forbes.com claimed to have obtained.

In October, advertising revenues from its New York Times Media Group, which includes properties such as the 'Times' and  the International Herald Tribune, dropped 15.3 per cent as compare to the same period last year, Forbes said.

At the time, its advertising revenue for the group was down 10.6 per cent over last year for a total of some $900  million, Forbes quoted the company as saying, as a result, the organisation has been aggressively trying to cut costs.

Earlier this month, the Times had announced that it was planning to borrow $225 million against its New Manhattan headquarters because of a cash flow squeeze.

In September, the Times had announced to close its wholesale newspaper distributor, City & Suburban, which delivered the Times and more than 200 other publications to  newsstands and other locations in New York.

The newspaper has also consolidated some print sections  such as mashing its sports section into its business section, Forbes said.

Nevertheless, Sulzberger told employees that efforts were falling short.

"We felt it was essential to take this step to further control our costs during these hard times."

Meanwhile, Detroit Media Partnership L P, which operates the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, is expected to announce next week that it will cease home delivery of the papers' print editions on most days of the week, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the company's policy.

But actual scenario set to be unveiled Tuesday when the Free Press, 20th largest US newspaper in terms of weekday circulation, and the News, are to end home delivery on all but the most lucrative days -- Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

On other days, the company would sell abbreviated print editions at newsstands and direct readers to the papers' expanded digital editions.

Both the Free Press, owned by Gannett Co and the News, owned by MediaNews Group, are operated by Detroit Media.

The Free Press and the News would be the first dailies in a metropolitan market to curtail home delivery and scale down their print editions. But the Journal said other newspapers are contemplating similar moves.

In October, the Christian Science Monitor said it will stop printing a daily newspaper in April and move instead to an online version with a weekly print product.

The changes are likely to result in significant job cuts, the Journal said, adding that Gannett, which owns 85 daily newspapers, recently said it was eliminating 2,000 positions as part of a 10 per cent staff reduction.

Two of its papers, USA Today and the Free Press, were not part of the layoff.

"The Detroit Media Partnership is looking at everything right now just like everyone else in the country," its spokesman Leland K Bassett was quoted as saying.

The cuts are expected to come mostly, if not entirely, from outside the newsroom, the report added.

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