Thursday, July 08, 2010

Memo: GPCs reorganize customer support Monday; four new 'pods' to control ad traffic for 24 dailies

Faced with what I'm told have been significant customer service problems, the two nascent Gannett Production Centers are reorganizing how they provide support to about two dozen newspapers that have already begun shipping artwork to the new advertising production centers, at Indianapolis and Des Moines.

The new organization, which divides customer service into four "pods,'' or three-person teams of traffic coordinators, goes into effect Monday, according to an internal memo distributed yesterday; I obtained a copy of the document from a reader.

The U.S. newspaper division, Gannett's largest, announced the GPCs last year as a cost-saving move. They are to be completely built out by January 2011, and are part of a broader effort to consolidate printing, editorial page design and editing, TV master control and graphics production, plus finance, photo toning and other functions -- all in a bid to boost productivity.

Dailies include Louisville, Brevard
Certainly, organizational problems are to be expected in any new venture. But the GPCs' success is crucial: Eventually, if advertising artwork isn't produced accurately and on time, advertisers will continue abandoning Gannett, costing it more revenue at a time when sales are already down, and advertisers have more choices than ever.

The new customer service organization is for dailies including some of the biggest -- The Indianapolis Star and The Des Moines Register, of course, plus The Courier-Journal at Louisville, Ky. Smaller papers include Tennessee's Jackson Sun and The News-Star at Monroe, La. Others include Florida Today at Brevard, The News Journal at Wilmington, Del., and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, according to the memo.

The memo's author is Toni Humphreys. At one point, and possibly still, Humphreys was director of the Regional Toning Centers, which also are based in Indianapolis and Des Moines. (I do not know this employee; can someone tell me more about her job responsibilities?)

Month-long 'pod' test
"We have been testing a 'pod' structure with a set of sites for nearly a month now,'' Humphreys writes. "We have divided our Support staff up to provide service to just a handful of sites to give more personalized service and to help our staff understand your operation better. The feedback from the test newspapers has been excellent."

Her note continues: "These teams will be designated to handle all of your sites needs including running reports looking for anomalies, touching base with your local ad traffickers to trouble shoot ads, addressing general inquires and handling the other work flow duties they cover today."

Humphreys does not allude to any problems with the current trafficking system -- problems described to me by a well-placed source, as well as in comments posted by Gannett Blog readers. Rather, she says: "The overall goal of these changes is to streamline communication with your site and allow us to be more proactive in identifying potential issues before they become a problem."

Jobs lost? Unclear
Much of the newly consolidated ad production, editing and other work is being concentrated at the two Gannett sites in Indianapolis and Des Moines, which are home to the Interstate and West regional newspaper groups run by the increasingly influential uber-publishers, Michael Kane and Laura Hollingsworth.

Newspaper division President Bob Dickey has never publicly said how many artwork and traffic jobs the GPCs in particular will eliminate. I've estimated that each newspaper will lose from five to 10, based on Gannett Blog reader comments. That would total between 400 and 800 jobs, assuming all 81 U.S. community papers are included. (The community papers group excludes USA Today and the Detroit Free Press.)

Gannett employed 35,000 workers in the U.S., Guam and the U.K. at the end of last year, down 16% from 2008. It remains one of the nation's largest private employers, however.

[Image: this morning's Today, Newseum]


  1. For your job loss estimate to be correct, you'd have to assume that the ad production staffing levels/volume in Rochester is the same as Elmira. This makes it fairly clear you've never been to Elmira.

  2. Certainly, at the smallest papers -- such as Elmira -- the total will be under five. Still, I think my overall figures are conservative. Can you shed any additional light?

  3. Toni Humphreys in Des Moines, director of the project and the Regional Toning Center there.
    There's been three years of sometimes tortured study that has gone into this. It is a big project and will cost a lot of jobs, including all the graphic artists at newspapers.
    Your job estimate is somewhat in line with a 2008 memo, which concluded 750 positions will be eliminated company-wide saving $26 million. Affected will be all the pre-press operations and ad services operations.
    Some of these operations will now be out-sourced, a worrisome trend in this company.

  4. Ads for the six eastern sites in Wisconsin have been produced in Green Bay for more than a year. Many of the lower paid ad builders have been quitting already, since they know they won't have a job in September, when most Wisconsin ads will be built in Des Moines.

    That's already causing production problems. Some of the sites barely get their ads on time, and with those six sites running at one press site (Appleton) it causes potential problems for the very tight press run schedule.

    It's a cluster now and will only get worse in September.

  5. The east WI consolidated ad production group could really give the GPCs a hand if they were allowed to stay open. I heard that their 2nd qtr credit numbers were great, and performance has steadily improved. Unfortunately for Gannett, it's all or nothing. Another narrow-minded approach to what they call problem solving.

  6. Our ad builders also are responsible for classified and daily product page layout and CTP workflow.
    Who will do this if they are laid off?

  7. uber? Seriously? Better than all others? With that designation, Laura should have a firm handle on a business plan.

  8. I was being ironical.

  9. As I understand this plan, there will be two people left at each newspapers responsible for ad building and design, so there will be someone available for classified. My objection is that it is going to result in homoginization of the ads as graphic arts are centralized. I don't know how advertisers are going to take it when their ads look like the ones bought by a competitor. Of course, also lost will be any feeling amongst advertisers that their ads are assembled by locals who shop in their stores.

  10. hmmmm Dickey dropped that there would be a total of 5 design centers, but never bothered to mention where the other 3 will be?

    anyone know?

    wow your ad designers do page layout also 1:32 is that a smaller paper?

    maybe they can let go of the high paying ad production manager (s) ours is useless, that would def save MONEY!!!! Now thats an idea to submit to DIG lol

  11. OK, I forgive you on the uber comment, then. As for as the RTC/GPC/Toni Humprheys, Gannett may be finally applying the proper management/economic model to be successful with these centers. Humphreys and her seconds run the place with an iron fist that brings micromanaging to a new level. One supervisor devotes a great deal of her time using remote desktop tools to monitor workstations and employee productivity. She's a lousy manager and project performer, but her management style might just be what Gannett needs to succeed in the new economy.

  12. Toni Humprheys is walking a plank on this one. Dickey has set this up so if it is a great success, he will take the credit for savings the company big bucks. If it is not a success and there are huge screw-ups or delays in getting ads out, Humphreys takes the fall and goes back to the toning center.
    You don't get to be a leader of this company without covering your a**.
    That's why the productivity monitoring. They are looking for choke points.
    I personally think this is a very reckless move. There's nothing that a regional center can come up with to replace the ad salesman breathing over the graphic artist to finish the damn thing because he's promised some buisiness it will appear in tomorrow's paper. There is going to be holy hell to pay if a sale is forced to begin a day earlier than planned because the newspaper accidentally published the ad a day early. Double that outrage if the sale is announced a day late. There are ad assembly screw ups all the time, which are now ironed out at the newspaper. Now it will require a long distance phone call to Des Moines and dealing with an indifferent or anonymous staff.

  13. The ads coming out of Green Bay are not very good: bad color combinations, poor choices in typography, strange artwork not related to the advertiser's message and -- this is the most important -- too many InDesign effects (drop shadows and outlines). Speaking as a former graphic designer from Gannett in Wisconsin, the only reason the production center in Green Bay had any success is due to the fact so many advertisers have given up on print advertising. Most advertisers only place ads in newspapers and magazines because they fear being "left out" of the marketplace. The businesses for which I used to build ads would never accept the ugly and sloppy pieces created by the production center. Good luck with Des Moines and Indianapolis. I have one final message to graphic designers who work only in print: you better learn some new skills because designers who only work in print, especially newsprint, are extinct! Trust me, I speak from experience.

  14. "Dickey dropped that there would be a total of 5 design centers"

    very interesting...this is entirely new to me. i have never heard there would be more than the two production centers that exist now. when was this statement made?
    on the topic of ad consolidation, does anyone know if they are on schedule?

  15. GPC is a cluster #^$&$! India did a better job on our ads and that isn't saying much.

  16. The GPC will replace local talent which is the stuff of where ideas come from. The sad part is most Gannett employees don't even care anymore. They are tired emotionally and it is not worth the effort.

  17. so are the news designs centers going to be ad production hubs or is all ad production going to be done in des moines and indianapolis? our paper was supposed to go at the end of last month but now it's been postponed

  18. 1:21 am: All the ad production will be done at the Gannett Production Centers in Des Moines and Indianapolis. The new News Design Centers will solely design and build pages.

  19. Peter (formerly of Poughkeepsie)11/11/2010 11:46 AM

    Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal had an Ad Operations staff of ten, including 2 managers, until October 22, 2010. As of that date 1 part time and 3 full time positions were eliminated, and the 5 remaining workers and 1 manager were given new job titles, and spread out the remaining duties of dummying the paper, Classified pagination Wed-Sun, "Wave2" obits, coordinating ATOL usage by advertisers/salespersons, etc. Was scheduled to go "live" with the new GPC in Indianapolis on October 25, but that was postponed until November 8 because of not being ready.

    In an interesting side note, the IT department in Poughkeepsie consisted of two full time staff and some "borrowed" Westchester programmers, and one of the Poughkeepsie IT staffers worked very hard and diligently loading fonts and ironing out problems that cropped up, sanfus that forced the 2 week postponement- laid off Monday 11/8, so now there is only 1 full time Poughkeepsie staffer in IT.


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