James Harding: Cuts are part of cross-media changes

The Times editor James Harding yesterday told staff the paper will restructure its production team to stop duplication between its print, iPad, website and Android editions.

Yesterday owners News International announced that up to 100 of the 700-strong editorial workforce on The Times could be axed as it looks to cut its budget by 15 per cent, while The Sunday Times will also make up to 20 full-time staff redundant and lose around 30 per cent of casual staff.

In total the cuts look set to mean around 150 journalists leaving The Times and Sunday Times.

The news came in the same week that NI announced the combined number of digital subscribers for The Times and The Sunday Times had risen 10 per cent since June to 111,036,

'When we moved to the new presses at Broxbourne three years ago, our print deadlines changed to 10.15pm and everybody's day just got longer,'Harding said in a letter to staff.

'We want to change the way we work and our production processes, so that we can deal with the creep of the newspaper day. We want to stop the duplication of production, between print, iPad, website and, most recently, Android. We want to give our production teams the skills to work on all platforms."

Harding said that despite The Times growing its circulation for 'the first time in nearly a decade'– taking into account digital growth – it was a still a business "in transition".

"We are only just beginning to migrate advertising on to the iPad and only just beginning to see what is possible on other platforms,'he said.

'We still have a long way to go to secure our future by putting our paper in profit."

Full text of Harding's letter to staff:

Earlier today I announced significant cuts to our budget and a large number of proposed redundancies and reductions in casual shifts.

I will not labour the explanation. The economy is stalling. Even if we miss a double dip recession, Britain will be lucky to register growth of 1 per cent. The outlook over the next 12 months is, at best, uncertain.

The costs of producing a newspaper have been sorely hit, not only by the soaring energy prices affecting everybody but the huge surge in the cost of newsprint: as Chinese and Indian newspaper consumption has mushroomed, demand for newsprint has surged and the cost of paper is up by 25 per cent.

It is true that we have returned The Times to circulation growth for the first time in nearly a decade – we have signed up more than 110,000 people who buy the digital editions of The Times every day and, as a result, the number of people buying The Times in print and on screen is up 3 per cent year-on-year. But we are still a business in transition: we are only just beginning to migrate advertising on to the iPad and only just beginning to see what is possible on other platforms. We still have a long way to go to secure our future by putting our paper in profit.

This means that we have to cut costs. This is true across News International: the commercial divisions have already made savings, the other papers are doing so too. And we have to do the same. This means that respected colleagues and good friends will be leaving the paper.

We are required to reduce our editorial budget by nearly 15 per cent. There are about 700 people who, in one form or another, have a working relationship with The Times. Some are on staff, some are casuals and some are on retainers. At the end of this process, I expect that up to 100 of those people – retainers, casuals and staff – will no longer be working for The Times.

We, as a paper, have been through several rounds of cost-cutting in recent years. On previous occasions, the vast bulk of the redundancies have been borne by people on the staff of the paper. Colleagues who work as casuals – whether they work pretty much every day of the week or only now and then – have largely been spared. This time, I am afraid that the largest share of cost savings will come from reducing the number of casuals across the paper. There will be some redundancies on the staff and some people will lose their retainers, but it is likely that we will see a 30 per cent reduction in the overall number of casual shifts. I cannot be more precise, because we are going to offer a two-week window for people to leave on a voluntary basis.

Anyone – either staff or casuals – who wants to be considered, should contact Anoushka Healy, the managing editor, over the next fortnight. The approach will be treated in confidence.

In making these cost savings, I hope that we can – in fact, we will have to – address some of the issues that have arisen in recent years around the way we work.

When we moved to the new presses at Broxbourne three years ago, our print deadlines changed to 10.15 and everybody's day just got longer. We want to change the way we work and our production processes, so that we can deal with the creep of the newspaper day. We want to stop the duplication of production, between print, iPad, website and, most recently, Android. We want to give our production teams the skills to work on all platforms.

You will shortly receive an e-mail from Anoushka that outlines the voluntary process that starts today, the redundancy terms being offered and the discussions that the paper has undertaken with NISA.

We have produced some of the best papers and most innovative journalism in what has been an extraordinary year for news. We have weathered what has been a difficult period for this company with integrity, commitment and great character. I can only say that I hope the changes we embark on today will see us through these extremely difficult times for our industry and the economy, and ensure that we

MORE ON THIS STORY : 

Sign up for our free weekly digital magazine, Press Gazette Journalism Weekly, and daily newsletter
To contact Press Gazette with a story call 0207 936 6433
or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk
To advertise, please call 0207 936 6764.