Common sense, a decade late: James Murdoch cuts 20% of sales jobs at News International

James Murdoch’s decision to merge the separate sales teams that used to service Times Media and News Group Newspapers might sound a bit radical.

In reality, it’s hard to describe the move as anything other than common sense, implemented a decade late in a sector well-known for its old school approach.

From September, News International’s sales teams will flog space through “agency-focused hubs, each housing between six and 10 people”.

The stated aim, of course, is for sales folk to build deeper relationships with the big agencies that generate most of NI’s ad revenues.

The unstated aim involves cutting perhaps 20% of the employment costs out of NI’s sales organization. News International is planning to make 100 out of 450 sales staff redundant.

From a bean counter’s point of view, the timing is excellent. The reorganization was worth doing anyway. But no doubt Murdoch Jr. has grabbed the chance to add a bundle of recession-related job cuts into the total.

The anonymous jeers from rivals quoted in Media Week cut very little ice. One suggests that asking the same team to sell space in both The Sun and The Times is “not a natural fit”.

Why not? Despite demographic differences, both papers trade in the same currency of eyeballs. By selling across a portfolio of titles, News International will hope to generate more incremental revenues than it will inevitably lose by demolishing title-focused sales teams.

The second complaint from an anonymous competitor goes like this:

“I am not convinced it is the best way to go forward. The changes will not grow their revenue base, but it will be a more efficient way to generate sales. This is about cutting out costs.”

. . . Which, last time I looked, seemed to be a perfectly sensible response to recession.

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