News media job losses: 140 per week — and climbing

How many news media jobs have been axed since the recession began in earnest in July? Yesterday’s news that Daily Mail & General Trust plans to cut 300 jobs in London — currently the subject of quibbling — brings the total of reported job losses to 2,709.

In case you were wondering, that’s around 140 job losses per week.

To reach that figure, I’ve combed through every story mentioning “redundancy” or “jobs” on Press Gazette and Media Guardian during the relevant timeframe. The monthly totals look like this:

  • November (until the 12th of the month): 595
  • October: 175
  • September: 922
  • August: 214
  • July: 803

Presumably, this is a significant underestimate. Some stories don’t carry sourced numbers for job losses (I haven’t included them.) In addition, small media companies carrying out redundancy programs don’t make the headlines.

One thing to note is the differing behaviour of media owners when it comes to making job cuts.

Broadcasters seem content to announce kitchen-sink reductions in headcount. BSkyB did this in July (250 jobs). Channel 4 followed suit in September (150 jobs). So did ITV (429 redundancies in the company’s news operation).

Print-based publishers have been behaving differently. Both Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press, for example, have avoided the Big Bang approach, instead taking a piecemeal approach to cutting jobs.

In early August, news leaked of 30 redundancies at Johnston Press in Scotland. This was followed by news of six job losses at the company’s operation Northampton, and eight in London. The proposed closure of JP’s presses in Northampton added 70 print-related jobs to the total.

September brought suggestions of five further redundancies at JP’s Sheffield operation.

Since then — nothing. So judging by publishing reports, we’re looking at 111 job losses since July at Johnston Press.

Yesterday, however, Johnston Press announced that it had cut 936 jobs since the start of the year. This equates to 12.4% of the workforce. (To confirm this for yourself, listen to this short extract from JP’s conference call with analysts. The call has been edited to exclude tricky questions from analysts. Perhaps these were just too painful to publish.)

Many of JP’s 900-odd cuts haven’t made the news. But don’t allow that to fool you. It’s generally reckoned that a 15% annualized cut in headcount is the most that any company can impose before operational performance really starts to suffer.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that JP is bang on target for this notional maximum during 2008.

The other point to notice is the relatively high total of job losses for November thus far. This month, we haven’t seen broadcasters announcing huge job cut packages. Announcements like these inflated the numbers in July and September.

In November, the action has been mostly confined to a broader range of print publishers making smaller cuts. In addition, we’ve started to see B2B publishers joining the list. In November, these have included Incisive Media (30 jobs) and United Business Media (47 jobs).

The curve has started heading upwards. Sadly, we’re probably still in the foothills. There’s a mountain still to climb.

Footnote: Before the questions start rolling in, let me point out that these numbers are broad-brush calculations.

There are print-related jobs contained within the published totals (c. 210 between Westferry and JP Northampton). Some obviously non-editorial jobs, too (for example, the 60 announced at FT Group in October).

I have also included sales jobs lost at places like News International (around 100, according to Media Week).

As for the broadcasters, well, their big numbers are fairly non-specific. ITV is on record as announcing a remarkable 429 job losses at its news operation in September. But the 250 job losses announced at Sky in July will doubtless include many workers who’ve never been near a news story (for example: call centre staff).

The point here is that across the news media as a whole it’s impossible to disentangle editorial from non-editorial redundancies. So I’ve chosen to count all job losses that have been announced (or reported).

The methodology isn’t perfect. But at least the trend line generated by these numbers will give us an idea of where we’re heading in the coming months.

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News media job losses: 140 per week - and climbing

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