THUNDER BAY – Commentary – While 2011 saw fewer announcements of layoffs and buyouts in the newspaper industry than previous years, attrition continued quietly and relentlessly, with the nation’s biggest newspaper publishers trimming their combined work forces by 7.2% over the course of the year.
A survey of SEC filings from nine major publishers — Gannett Co., McClatchy Co., New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., Lee Enterprises, A.H. Belo, E.W. Scripps, and Media General — reveals the total newspaper headcount fell from 55,537 at the end of 2010 to 51,564 at the end of 2011. Not coincidentally, all these publishers also faced continuing ad revenue declines.
Gannett’s publishing division cut its work force from 22,400 full and part-time employees at the end of 2010 to 20,900 at the end of 2011, for a 6.7% reduction. Total publishing revenues fell 5.7% from $4.03 billion in 2010 to $3.8 billion in 2010, with publishing ad revenue down 6.1% and circulation revenue down 5.1%.
McClatchy’s work force shrank 11.5% from 7,773 full-time equivalent employees at the end of 2010 to 6,880 at the end of 2011. Over the same period, the company’s total revenues fell 7.4% from $1.38 billion to $1.27 billion.
The New York Times Co. had the smallest workforce reduction, with the total headcount of full-time equivalent employees slipping 2% from 7,414 at the end of 2010 to 7,273 at the end of 2011. It also posted the smallest revenue decline, with total revenues down 2.9% from $2.39 billion in 2010 to $2.32 billion in 2011.
The Washington Post Co. cut its newspaper staff 4.5% from 2,002 employees at the end of 2010 to 1,911 at the end of 2011. WaPo’s newspaper division revenue fell 5% from $680.4 million to $648 million; the company made even bigger cuts at its struggling education division, reducing the company’s total headcount from 20,000 to 18,000.
At Lee Enterprises, the company’s headcount shrank 6.5% from 6,098 full-time equivalent employees at the end of 2010 to 5,700 at the end of 2011. Lee’s total operating revenues decreased 3.1% from $780.6 million to $756.1 million.
A.H. Belo experienced some of the deepest cuts in proportional terms, with the workforce shrinking from 2,200 full-time employees at the end of 2010 to 1,900 at the end of 2011 — a 13.6% reduction. The company’s revenues decreased 5.3% from $487.3 million to $461.5 million.
E.W. Scripps trimmed its newspaper workforce 6.7% from 3,000 at the end of 2010 to 2,800 at the end of 2011. However, the company’s overall headcount actually increased thanks to expansion at its TV division, which added 400 employees for a total 1,800. On the publishing side, total revenues fell 4.8% from $435 million to $414.3 million.
Media General’s workforce contracted 9.7% from 4,650 full-time equivalent employees at the end of 2010 to 4,200 at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, its total operating revenues fell 9.1% from $678 million to $616 million.
(c) 2011 MediaPost Communications Big Newspaper Publishers Cut Work Force 7% in 2011
by Erik Sass originally appeared in Online Media Daily on April 2, 2012.