December 2, 2014 Last Updated 7:57 am

Buyout effort at the NYT comes up short; rather than more industry conferences, let’s party!

Seeking up to 100 voluntary separations, NYT management offers staff three weeks pay for every year worked at the Grey Lady to leave

It would be hard to blame a newspaper professional if they were a little leery about accepting a voluntary separation from their newspaper. In the past one might simply pack up their things, update their resume and move on – but where is there to move on to these days?

NYT-front-200So, if reports are right, it appears that the NYT’s latest effort to trim back staff 100 positions may have come up short, forcing the company to decide whether it wants to impose involuntary separations.

According to Keith Kelly at the NYPost, 85 staffers raised their hands and said they would take the NYT’s separation package – three weeks pay for every year worked, more for those with 20 years seniority. If enough higher paid employees were willing to volunteer it may be enough to prevent a dozen or more layoffs. If not, well, there will be some bad news for some around the holidays.

“It is a shame there were not more volunteers,” Grant Glickson of the Guild told Kelly.

Yes, it is a shame there weren’t more volunteers to rise out of the trench and face the enemy, but then again newspaper people tend to be rather logical about these things – they know what faces them out on the streets looking for another position. A job at the NYT is supposed to be about reaching the top of the profession. Who wouldn’t want to hang on to that job? No, the NYT should be happy to learn that their staff is not, yet at least, chomping at the bit to get out of Dodge.

There seems to be two seasons for magazine conferences: just before the holidays, and just after the holidays. Trade publications that once thought of themselves as publishers, but now see themselves as events companies, are trying hard to connect those seasons into a 12 month a year business – some in the publishing world think that is a good idea.


Did someone say “party”?

As anyone who has read TNM since January of 2010, I think very little of conferences. They are the new profit center for B2Bs covering our industry, but otherwise serve no other purpose that I can see. The programs are a mix of members sitting on stage discussing some topic, there more often because they are board members and putting them on stage guarantees their attendance. The other two-thirds of the program is made up of vendors who pay to appear (sometimes indirectly, sometimes directly) and keynotes.

Vendors tell me these events drive very little business. The same, non-decision makers usually attend, and most who are decision makers are looking for cheap and easy solutions rather than something new. As one digital publishing platform company CEO told me “there is nothing like a conference to make one pessimistic about the future of magazines.”

But they go anyways. Their competitors may be there… and besides, there is lunch.

But as the holidays are approaching, I suggest an alternative: dump the conferences and let’s just party. Parties are informal, are stand-up affairs rather than sitting ones, and involve drinking and eating (i like to do both). What is there not to like? They force interaction, encourage off-the-cuff conversations, and might draw in those new to the industry who are actually doing much of the interesting work these days. Everybody thinks the best part of any conference is the after hours socializing anyways, right?

To attend the typical industry conference one must be a member of an association, or willing to pay a fee to the events company. How many publishers of PressPad or MagCast magazine apps, which make up an increasing number of the actual magazine launches each year, are produced by industry association members? (“Zero” is probably a good answer.) And those producing most of the new digital magazines being launched have neither the time nor the money to spend sitting around a ballroom in some resort city. Parties are inclusive, not exclusive (which is why some industry veterans like conferences).

Want to attract new attendees, want to hear of new ideas, want to stop wasting time hearing canned speeches? Meet in a pub rather than a Marriott.

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