In a dramatic escalation of its work consolidation strategy, Gannett now plans to establish five super hubs across the United States, where pages for most of its 81 U.S. community newspapers will be built remotely by teams of designers.
CCI NewsGate system that's integral to running the five page production hubs, according to several of my readers.
The plan has been in works for months, and has been the subject of speculation among Gannett Blog's readers. One source told me late today that U.S. newspaper division President Bob Dickey disclosed the five-hub strategy this afternoon, during a meeting with employees of The Tennessean at Nashville.
Key elements have fallen into place relatively recently, however; the $15 million CCI expense, for example, was disclosed just three months ago, in Gannett's first-quarter 10-Q filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on May 4.
Nashville as test site?
Copy editing, which presumably would include writing headlines, will continue to be handled at the local newspaper level, I've been told. So, too, would story assignment and, presumably, decisions about "play" -- which articles and photographs, for example, appear on the front page, and in what order.
Choosing to unveil the plan in Nashville would make sense: One source tells me Nashville, which is headquarters for the newspaper division's South Group, will house one of the five hubs. Indeed, I believe the Tennessee city will be among the first to try out the new CCI NewsGate system.
The roll out of a unified computer system and five regional hubs comes as Gannett searches for new ways to cut labor costs when advertising revenue continues to fall, albeit at slower rates, during the global economy's agonizingly slow recovery.
Ramping up consolidation
It is in step with other consolidation efforts in the U.S. Community Publishing newspaper division that included establishment of regional photo toning centers; three large circulation customer service centers, plus the still-developing Gannett Production Centers in Des Moines and Indianapolis, where advertising artwork is to be created for all the community papers by January 2011.
Gannett has already established pagination hubs on a smaller scale in, for example, Louisiana and Wisconsin; some of those were launched last year. I do not know what will happen to those smaller hubs when the five larger ones are opened.
Many, many other questions remain unanswered. Beyond Nashville, I have not been given locations for the other four super hubs. It would be logical to open them at or near the other regional newspaper group headquarters, which are in in Des Moines; Indianapolis, and Wilmington, Del. Another possible location would be McLean, Va., headquarters for Corporate and USA Today.
Job losses unclear
USAT and the Detroit Free Press are not part of the community newspaper division, so I don't believe they are directly part of the new hub system. However, USA Today, Gannett's biggest paper by circulation, has for many years used CCI NewsGate.
The Arizona Republic and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and The Indianapolis Star come to mind.
Another critical question for employees: the number of jobs to be eliminated in this new system. The entire consolidation strategy is about doing more work with fewer people in order to lower costs and boost profits. The new Gannett Production Centers, for example, could eliminate as many as 800 artists' jobs, according to a rough estimate I've been using.
Although Dickey reportedly told Nashville staffers about the plan, a formal announcement has yet to be made. That could come next Friday, when Corporate releases the second-quarter earnings statement, and briefs Wall Street analysts about ongoing initiatives.
Earlier: "Freedom begins at home" vs. "content as product"
What more do you know? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.
[Image: today's Republic, Newseum]