Gannett warns of mass layoffs at recently acquired NJ Media Group
Acquired just over 70 days ago, the ax is already out as the publisher of USA Today seeks ‘corporate-average margins’ for their new newspaper and magazine division
Two months ago Gannett announced that they had acquired the North Jersey Media Group, which includes The Record, as well as the Herald News and other media properties, including the monthly (201) Magazine. Now here comes the layoffs.
News that Gannett is about to buy the publication you work for must be frightening, as close to a death sentence that one can imagine.
“Gannett expects the acquisition to contribute approximately $90 million in annual revenues and will approach approximately corporate-average margins by the end of the first full year of operations,” the company said in July. That sentence, at least the last part, “corporate-average margins” was the clue. What are “corporate-average margins” these days? At some publications the margins are zero, but I am sure that is not how Gannett looks at it. As publisher I am all for healthy margins, but I’ve always believed one achieves them through good ad sales and giving readers a great product. I’ll leave it at that.
Gannett announced the layoffs using the formula perfected by Advance Publications, telling readers that this was actually good news.
“Since Gannett’s July acquisition, we have recognized that NJMG must transform even faster to meet the ever-changing demands of readers, advertisers and the communities we serve,” said Tom Donovan, Northeast regional president of Gannett East Group. “In response, we are reinventing our newsroom, sales team and other business divisions. We are making a long-term investment in our staff, tools and technology.”
As required by New Jersey state law, 426 employees will receive notices by the end of the week, informing them that mass layoffs are coming. About half, Gannett said, will lows their jobs, the others reassigned yo “newly defined news and advertising roles.”
“This is not merely a restructure, but a bold, ambitious vision to make North Jersey Media Group even more competitive in the metro New York City market,” said Richard Green, editor and vice-president of content. “It is painful to see a staff reduction. However, I am confident a new structure and content strategy will protect the award-winning, sophisticated work this team produces and expand significantly our digital presence.”
Readers, of course, are not buying it (read the comments). They’ve heard this kind of talk before. “Digital-first” was a term that once actually meant something positive, the idea that news should be published first to the web and that reporters, editors and sales people should not think of their websites as add-ons, but an integral part of the publication.
Today, it means only one thing: layoffs.