'Sky falls in' for US media

This is turning into a bleak week for American media. Advertising in major newspapers, which has been dropping in recent years at roughly three per cent has climbed into double figures.

At the same time lay-offs – at both newspapers and magazines – are escalating.

Time Inc, which publishes Time, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated, is trimming 600 jobs and re-organising its staff.

Even more layoffs are predicted. Gannett, America’s largest newspaper publisher, is laying off 10 per cent of its workforce – up to 3,000 people.

The Star Ledger, in New Jersey, the country’s 15th largest paper is reducing its staff by 40 per cent,. That’s on top of the news that TV Guide,once one of the biggest selling magazines, has been sold by Macrovision to private equity fund OpenGate Capital for one dollar – that’s about a third of its price on newsstands. And the announcement that the Christian Science Monitor is virtually giving up print and will concentrate its newsgathering to its website.

As the New York Times put it: “Clearly, the sky is falling. The question now is, how many people will be left to cover it..”

At Time Inc there are no plans – at the moment – to shut down any of its 24 magazine, but the company – and its websites – are being re-organized into three separate divisions: news, entertainment and lifestyles. The hope is that this will cut down on overlapping costs – and possibly lead to more sharing of writers.

Even after all the cuts that have been made, Time Inc still has over 10,000 employees, about 3,000 of them outside the United States. In addition to its American titles, the company owns nearly 100 magazines abroad

The downturn in the media industry has resulted in a decline in profits at virtually every publishing company. At the recent American Magazine Conference in San Francisco many delegates expressed the worry that the great brand-names of journalism – publications that readers have bought and relied on for generations – will vanish in the not-too-distant future.

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