Editorial contributors braced for cuts

Editorial staff contributing to some of Britain’s best-regarded national newspapers are feeling the pinch, as their jittery owners step up efforts to improve their bottom lines.

Managers at Telegraph Media Group, the publisher of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, told its journalists on Friday that 10% of them would be made redundant.

Declining revenues from advertising were blamed for the cuts, which were “deplorable” and must be replaced with “alternative [cost] savings,” journalists’ unions said.

Reporting the cuts, due to hit about 50 staff, the Financial Times quoted the Telegraph’s managing editor Richard Ellis as saying its staffing levels were no longer sustainable.

Whispers at another national suggest the pink-paged City paper has its own problems: heads of department for the Pearson-owned title were recently summoned to trim their budgets.

The Observer also reported “talk” that the belt-tightening exercise could claim the pages of the FT’s international edition, with less original content the most likely result.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning Sunday paper may be heartened to hear that its rival the Independent on Sunday has moved in with the Mail on Sunday at its Kensington base.

The cost-cutting move, likely to claim 100 jobs on top of 90 cuts earlier this year, is being seen as a likely sign of things to come, as savings-hungry papers look to consolidate, outsource or merge.

In the case of the Independent and Mail titles, just the back-office of the two will fuse, saving the Indy a hoped-for £3m. Other print consolidations in the future may even extend to editorial, commentators warn.

And while not all of the 190 layoffs will hit editorial staff, the pool of journalists working for Independent News and Media, due to reside at the Mail’s HQ, is expected to shrink by 25%.

Again, falling ad revenues were blamed for the move and the resulting staff cuts, which are tempting print bosses as a quick way to offset the resulting strain on profits.

Evidencing the slowdown, analysis from Enders shows ad revenues for the nationals will fall from £1.9bn last year, a figure broadly flat since 2003, to £1.2bn within five years.

Obtained by the FT, the group’s analysis also suggest the rise of the internet has dented papers’ prospects, as the daily circulation of every national paper has declined since last year.

The firm’s research adds that in 2002 around 12.8m national papers were sold everyday in the UK, compared with the 11m forecasted for this year, and slightly above the 9m predicted for 2013.

Ominously for editorial contributors, the researcher predicted a number of titles in the stable of major UK newspaper houses may face “divestment or even closure within six years”.

 

1st December 2008

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