Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11-17 | Your News & Comments: Part 1

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  1. Amazing comments about USA Today leadership in the previous open threads. Editors going unreplaced, writers being paid bonuses for clicks, the Gannett execs getting kicked in the nuts for carving bonuses out of the flesh of their employees. Looks like the vitriol is flowing like hot lava toward the managers and executives who run this place.

    Good. They worked hard to earn this scorn.

  2. We can hope we've hit a tipping point in sentiment. A May 2 and 3 sick out would be a nice step.

    Gannett may be a union-killing giant, but employees can stick up for themselves even without a union.

  3. It's not just the New York papers that use the same window dressing. Look at Town Talk in Alexandria and the Poughkeepsie Journal. The headline fonts and bylines are exactly the same. Corporate must be dictating standard styles now. There goes local individuality.

  4. Several months ago, I wrote about the adoption of a new and limited number of faces and fonts for all the U.S. papers. This is, indeed, part of the five production hubs.

  5. The adoption starts with the $500k experiment in Wilmington. Undoubtedly the plan calls to morph the Magid changes in Wilmington to all the other papers - with limited font choices, limited live humans to touch the papers locally - this feeds the production consolidation effort. Unfortunately, no one bothered to check other Magid consulting sites to see if circ gains were accomplished (they were not ...) and so the only theory can be this is nothing more than a series of design changes to aid in the consolidation of production needs to eliminate costs (people).

    An earlier post hinted that while this seems like a strategy - it's one born of accountants and bean counters, and those without a clear understanding of why readers BUY newspapers.

    The connection with local readers and advertisers has been lost, and these "make 'em all the same, and make 'em all for less" strategy will be a deciding blow in demise of the printed edition for Gannett newspapers.

  6. What bothers me about this company is that unlike some soap-maker or drug company, this is a media company headed by people who understand the dangers of bad press and how to message the media.
    So why does this company do these things that look so bad, like execs pocketing eye-popping salary increases while imposing furloughs to save money and laying off workers. Surely, they realize the misery they are imposing on the families of its employees, and yet they are tone-deaf to what their own huge salary increase might result in terms of their public image.
    I certainly could see a bank doing this, or a soap manufacturer. But a media company that makes its money from running presses is very perverse and strange.
    Would it not have been better p.r. to accept a salary freeze? Would their lifestyles be really have been hurt if they had to live on the money they have already pocketed.
    Had they showed some sacrifice, they might have been able to rally the troops to follow them with some enthusiasm. They didn't do that. They trampled on the goodwill of their employees, isolated themselves, and endured the white-hot hatred in this company's ranks and negative feelings in the general public.
    And this is a newspaper company?

  7. 7:51 said: The connection with local readers and advertisers has been lost, and these "make 'em all the same, and make 'em all for less" strategy will be a deciding blow in demise of the printed edition for Gannett newspapers.

    Well, sort of. But GCI brass has already accepted the demise of print as a given. They just haven't told you that. It's a secular trend and resistance is futile. The question is, can the cash cow that print still represents be milked enough to pay down the debt and fund the transition to what's next? Or will CGI run out of runway (to mix metaphors) and the plane hit the trees before achieving a liftoff (with liftoff being debt paydown plus a viable post-print business)? This is what the strip mining (to introduce Jim's term and third metaphor) is really all about.

  8. 8:15 I agree with that, but what is the time-frame of this trajectory? That is, how much time (months, years) do we have until we run out of runway? It also looks a futile effort to prevent this, but is there some way to keep going?

  9. Is there any word as to when the
    Des Moines design hub is going to go live ?
    Will it include all the small,Iowa and Midwest weeklies? The local weekly here is down to
    about 10 employees,from a high of about 40 employees, including 3 in design who are left.
    The 5,000 square foot building is a ghost town now, with the presses being sold, the mailroom being outsourced and now the design area going away.

  10. Dearest 2:57 a.m.:

    Dude. Quit trying to organize a sick-out on *Gannett Blog.* There are more corporate fatheads reading this thing than the few remaining news-side employees.

    Are you trying to get the few of us who remain, fired? At this rate, if I'm hit by a steam roller on May 2, I'll have to drag my shattered ass into the Information Center just to prove that I'm not trying to foment revolt.

    Thanks for nothing, person who trolls blogs at 3 a.m.!

  11. 8:15 I am giving it about two years. Look what is about to happen next Monday when corporate talks about the Q1 results. They have already telegraphed the bad news. But based on what happens historically, Q2 is going to be no better. That means even more cuts by mid-summer, which will weaken GCI's efforts to recover money as seasonal advertising kicks in Q3 and Q4. Hit replay for what happens next year.
    They are already probably in violation of their debt covenants that require them to maintain a certain revenue/profit level. That means no more loans, but perhaps renegotiating what we have.
    Will Superman come to the rescue? I don't see it. What's in this for an investor? I also see corporate grabbing for whatever cash it can pocket because when it goes under, the suits realize they will never find another job like this one, and they are allergic to day labor or working hard.

  12. As Jim pointed out, Gannett is adopting a limited number of fonts for all papers. One of the reasons is so that smaller papers, who may not have graphic artists, can use graphics created at larger papers. Graphics are distributed as .pdf files and fonts are licensed. Some smaller papers have gotten into trouble for using graphics created at larger papers that had fonts the smaller papers were not licensed to use. By standardizing fonts across the company, a paper in Ohio can use a graphic created in Phoenix, for example.

    And design integrity? Like "local control" that's a Gannett canard. Design studio pages will be created in templates. It will be hard to tell a page created for the Poughkeepsie Journal apart from a page created for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

  13. Anybody remember Ongo, that subscription-service aggregator USAT and other major news orgs signed up with? Well, the first taste is free. Oddly, an Ongo ad showed up on my Facebook page this morning. Ongo is giving away free day passes. It offers you a free month of service if you share the email addresses if five other people, plus another free month of one of the friends subscribes. Oh, and if you subscribe, you get the first month free, too. Hardly sounds like it's the best thing since sliced bread, as Gannett breathlessly predicted.
    My "daypass" gives me access to stories I could find anywhere through google if I'm interested in a particular topic. Ho-hum.

  14. 8:51 a.m. and 9:38 a.m. both got it right. Print is gasping its last, and Dubow, Martore, Dickey, Hunke and their ilk are grabbing with both fists.

    They can't get cash fast enough to stuff in pockets as they engineer G A N N E T T away from news and into marketing.

    Their problem is that the bulk of G A N N E T T revenue comes from the community papers. And there's no acknowledgement from corporate that profit expectations cannot continue with the print model.

    We keep hearing on this blog how much Dubow and Martore have done for G A N N E T T. They've done virtually nothing except drive it into debt (with help from Corkie) then claim to be saviors by paying off debt with the flesh of their workers.

    Those working at the community papers better be braced for more layoffs and furloughs as circulation and advertising continues to fall. That's the only way that Dubow, Martore, Dickey, Hunke, et al, can keep getting richer.

  15. It appears that Gannett is trying to "Henry Ford" newspaper content and production. On a national level, this strategy has merit. Someone in Ohio is probably not reading the product in Mississippi.
    However, they are also trying to treat the local news, the historical strength of all the properties they purchased around the country, as an assembly-line commodity. That's a little harder to pull off as it is likely to alienate advertisers AND readers.
    Given, the print product is an endangered species. None of my children (in their early 20's) is ever likely to develop the newspaper habit their father and I have. However, print still has value if it doesn't get standardized out of existence.
    If I want to know what Macy's is advertising, I get emails, or go to their website. I do not buy the local paper for that purpose. However, if I want to know about a new bistro in town, I should be able to find information on my local paper's website, or pick up a print copy and see if there's an ad (or coupon, or review).
    Since Macy's spends more money with Gannett than the bistro, it's easier to develop strategies that accommodate them.
    Frankly, though, the marketing people at Macy's (and other Major customers) should be watching Gannett's moves very closely. Gannett no longer knows their target audience (assuming they ever did), and that should be a concern to any Major or National account.

  16. Anyone heard anything about something terrible happening?
    There was a conference call this a.m., and now the big bosses are acting quite upset. Not that we're paranoid or anything ...

  17. Craig's Bonus4/11/2011 10:59 AM

    How about some corporate civil disobedience? I like the idea of a one- or two-day sick out. Let publishers put out the papers on their own. What are they going to do, fire the whole staff? Meanwhile, spread today's NYT story as far and wide as possible and encourage a boycott by advertisers and build up whatever competitors you can find, be it local broadcast, weeklies, the nearest other daily, local websites, anything. Drive GCI into the ground until that worthless bean counter Dubow is out on his sorry ass, along with every last parasite in McLean.

  18. Dearest 9:12 a.m.,
    Seriously dude. It's time someone slapped you around a bit to help you awake from your Gannett-induced stupor. I believe in you. I believe you can come to realize that the only way to stop the downward spiral corporate greed has caused this company and the communities it serves is for the few remaining employees it has left to organize.

    Go ahead and do it. If you're too afraid to take the sick days, schedule vacation days for May 2 and 3 if you are too afraid to take sick days. EVERYONE taking the days won't cure everything, but it could help the company wake up. More light on the corporate greed has to happen.

  19. 9:38 The Mayans got it right. It will all be over by 2012.

  20. i heard the rumors about furlough or layoff in mid summer? oh well good luck gannett company!

  21. I think the fact they gave themselves raises while they continue to screw us shows their true colors. Next time they visit us to tell use they value us you know it is just BS. Our company leadership is morally bankrupt. I hope they enjoy their ill gotten gain now because they will rot in hell in the next life.

  22. Corporate civil disobedience?

    Seriously 10:59, your plan will do more harm to Gannett employees, advertisers and the communities they serve than Dubow et al who will profit no matter how they exit.

    If you really want to raise hell, send compelling details of material acts of maleficence, employee abuses, etc. to board members, media outlets like the NYT, Forbes et al and Gannett’s top investors. History has shown that even Dubow and Horning have followed up on information like that with some positive effect. And, isn’t that what you really want? Again, it has to be compelling; i.e. truthful details, not innuendo and hyperbole.

    BTW, if you don’t think people would get fired for doing what you suggest you’re kidding yourself as that type of behavior cannot be condoned.

  23. The sick out sounds outstanding. Set up a doctor's appointment that day or the day before and get a note.

  24. The head of advertising for Macy's recently spoke at the National Newspaper Association conference and said just the opposite. Stating that newspapers were the number one performer for them and encouraged newspapers to NOT give up on print.

    Sorry 10:30 some people might agree with you but one of our top advertisers does not.

  25. The sick out is the right thing to do. Something's got to get their attention. What Dubow and his croonies (and those who went before him...oh Dougie Boy, you know you're the real villain here) are doing needs to stop before they kill the company completely. I agree with 1:52, make a doc appt for that day. Make plans now.

  26. By "pursuing other interests," I guess it means former publisher seeking unemployment benefits like the rest of the troops.

  27. 1:54 So the layoffs and furloughs are not real? If Macy's is still advertising, why are we in such misery and turmoil? Are we not charging them the right price for our services?

  28. Usa today publisher hunks just held a how go boost morale in the newsroom meeting. No reporters were invited. How to improve morale? Where should they start?

  29. all-out revolt is brewing...this calls for a little Les Mis...

    Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing the song of angry men?
    Singing a song of angry men?
    It is the music of a people
    Who will not be slaves again!
    When the beating of your heart
    Echoes the beating of the drums
    There is a life about to start
    When tomorrow comes!

    Will you join in our crusade?
    Who will be strong and stand with me?
    Beyond the barricade
    Is there a world you long to see?

  30. 3:54 PM that's odd, because last summer, during the transformation meetings, Hunke told us that if we had morale problems, they were just that: our problem, not his. I wonder if his 2012 bonus is based on how many smiling faces are seen in the halls?

  31. Hunks told editors it their job to improve newsroom morale. Not sure why that falls on them. They already are overworked and overtasked with b.s. Hunks does not get it and doesn't really care. He thinks this is an editorial problem. Clueless in McLean.

  32. He does not care.

  33. It boggles my mind that Gannett has not tested an approach of choosing just ONE market (may I suggest Cincinnati?) and seeing what would happen if - instead of cutting, cutting, cutting - they invested significant dollars in publishing a really great newspaper - say, similar to the Palm Beach Post.

    I have watched with interest and concern how The Cincinnati Enquirer has become a piece of trash while the Palm Beach Post continues to be a first-rate source of information...local, state-wide - and national.

    Both newspapers serve a population of about equal size. I honestly believe that if Gannett would publish a really great newspaper, the readership would increase sufficiently to drive ad revenue. The company could finance the test by rolling back executive bonuses described in today's New York Times article.

    Or - perhaps Gannett no longer cares about quality - and does not have a committment to even trying to publish a good newspaper.

  34. Go viral with the furlough story...

    Create a "Feed the Executive" video not unlike those used for children and post it on YouTube. Though in this one the goal is to show how an employee's "donation" of just one hour of unpaid leave a week can help keep Dubow, Matore, Dickey, etc. In the lifestyles they've become accustomed to enjoying.

    A worthy cause as all know that next worst thing to being poor is having to lower one's standard of living.

  35. If Hunke is concerned about improving newsroom morale, how about lemon bars?

  36. Lifetimes of the rich and famous. There's been lotsa movement in Craig's neighborhood this spring. Here are some of the listings of the estates near his that are currently up for sale:

  37. Breaking news. John Zidich, CEO and Publisher of the Arizona Republic has resigned from the Board of the scandal plagued Fiesta Bowl.

    Zidich's role on the board and questions of what he knew and didn't know has become a sore point in the excellent reporting done by Arizona Republic reporters who have uncovered allegations of corruption and improprieties (like spending over $1K in a Phoenix strip club) by Fiesta Bowl Director John Junker, who resigned in the wake of the Republic's reporting.

    There's more on

  38. BEWARE, more layoffs. That is a fact. Advertising admin positions will now be targeted. All I have to say is to make sure you have an exit strategy and do not depend on Gannett or any other company to bail you out. That is what the Obama Administration is for.

  39. Funny to hear Macy's say how important print is to them. They've cut their advertising DRAMATICALLY in recent years. Went from ads almost every day to maybe 1 or 2 times a week. And the ads they do run are much smaller. Rarely do you get a full page anymore. Usually it's a page killer ... 4 or 5 columns. Just enough to block another decent-sized ad from getting on the page without having to buy the whole thing.

  40. This will seem cold. It amazes me that Gannett doesn't just make the cuts that will get them to the expense number they need, make tough decisions about some newspapers that are held up by others and eliminate furloughs to begin investing in their products again.
    People need direction, strategy and hope. Furloughs do nothing but communicate a lack of strategy.

  41. @4:14...LOL, love the le mis deal. Empty Chairs and Empty Table is in order when speaking of our lost colleagues...

  42. 9:21; the slow drip theory works much better. Less of a trail for potential lawsuits. It inspires a culture of fear, making employees sheetlike and submissive. The smart ones w/talent will leave. Management truly does not care about you.

  43. More Les Mis a la Gannett appropriate:

    Red - the blood of angry men!
    Black - the dark of ages past!
    Red - a world about to dawn!
    Black - the night that ends at last!

    You can go in a lot of directions with that one...

  44. Jim, Interesting take here on the decline of Gannett and USA Today's brand. And in language the empty suits in the Crystal Palace can understand.

    He declares Gannett the Brand "loser of the week" and says the execs have shown they don't understand what a media brand is, and where it derives value.

    Here's the meat of it:


    When the cost-cutting geniuses decided to stop publishing Gourmet magazine a few years ago, but still “monetize” the brand, they showed that they didn’t understand how media brands fundamentally work.

    Bottom line, you simply can’t get rid of the talent, material and standard of excellence that is –in fact— your brand and expect what remains to have any value. No matter how esteemed and established the name of your product is without the material, it ends up hollowed out.

    In the last five years, the Gannett workforce has been reduced from 52,000 to about 32,000. Mandatory furloughs are common and community newsrooms –once the backbone of this media company— are shrinking.

    All the employees seem to be taking the hit, but the management is still awarding itself big paydays.

    There is no question that the Gannett business model is under assault from the Internet and mobile devices. And there’s no question that cost-cutting is necessary.

    But the issue for any brand is how you cut costs –especially a media brand like Gannett’s that requires talent and the right kind of spending to produce high-value content. In Gannett’s case, the decision by management to keep executive pay packages rich while cutting into the livelihoods of the company’s employees not only looks bad but it badly hurts brand equity.

    Why? Because a media company’s brand equity is, more than almost any other kind of business, its content-producing employees. This is especially true in journalism where journalists are used to working overtime without compensation just to get that next scoop or talk to one more source.

    Journalists have long put up with greedy management and executives who don’t necessarily appreciate the front-line realities of journalism, but the latest Gannett move injects insecurity into that equation. A journalist will work hard and for less for a company that is going to be sticking around, but what Gannett management is doing reeks of a company squeezing out the last of the money from something that doesn’t have much a future.

    My guess is that most employees must seriously be considering how to jump ship before it goes down and the best and smartest talent will make that jump before everyone else.

    Folks, that’s not something you want, especially in tough times when shared sacrifice from top to bottom of an organization and the dynamic re-invention of a brand are what’s needed to avert disaster. If Gannett management is serious about saving this brand then it needs to let everyone know that talented, dedicated people are what make a media brand –and it needs to join in the hard times. End of story.

    And, remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

    A media brand is nothing without content that is in demand.

  45. I wish the board of directors would read the 11:18pm posting. Mr. Dubow and Martore too.

  46. Check this out: EEOC Sues Gannett Companies for Disability Discrimination

  47. @7:49 PM, "BEWARE, more layoffs. That is a fact. Advertising admin positions will now be targeted"
    Do you mean AA's or sales assistants? can't get much leaner than it is now unless it's the VP's AA's and I doubt the VP's can type their own memo..who will run the reports for the computer illiterates !

  48. Love the sick-out idea, but didn't get much support from others at my location. Don't know if it will be effective if most employees at a site don't participate.

  49. Lansing State Journal published an editorial praising gov snyders huge tax cut for business & huge tax increases for senior & the poor. And huge cuts for K-12 & colleges & local communities. Basically its a "we all have to share the pain" philosophy. Yeah right!

    This got me wondering about the actual percentage that Gannett pays in federal taxes. Any ideas abt where I find this info?


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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