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 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]