Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Memo: GCI to reveal new model for weak USCP; plan could be biggest news revamp in five years

Corporate is poised to announce a revamping of its U.S. community newspapers next week, the latest since the launch of the digital-first Information Center model in 2006, according to a company memo.

Confirming a report that appeared here earlier, the head of Corporate's News Department, Vice President Kate Marymont, has scheduled a newsroom web conference for Feb. 2 that will include remarks by CEO Gracia Martore and the head of the U.S. Community Publishing division, Bob Dickey. That still-weak division includes the bulk of GCI's business: 80 mostly small U.S. newspapers that account for nearly 70% of GCI's overall revenue.

In a memo yesterday, Marymont said she would "talk about our journalism priorities and explain a new training program to support the many initiatives underway -- the CCI installation, Design Studio implementations, Content Evolution and the new business model rollout."

The new business model would be the first announced since Martore became CEO in October, and would be the latest one since GCI moved to the web-focused Information Center model begun in November 2006 under Martore's predecessor, Craig Dubow.

Marymont's memo is the first official public acknowledgement that GCI plans a shake-up of the USCP's model.

It comes as GCI continues to battle declines in its chief source of revenue, newspaper advertising -- a falloff that will be evident again when Corporate is set to announce fourth-quarter and full-year financial results Monday morning. During a telephone conference with media stock analysts that day, Martore could discuss some details of the new business model.

Meanwhile, many newspaper publishers and editors are expected to travel to Corporate's headquarters in McLean, Va., next week, according to one of my readers -- presumably for presentations on the new business model before the Feb. 2 web conference.

Apparently anticipating better news, investors have been bidding up GCI's shares for the past two weeks. They recently traded this morning for $15.25, down 6 cents -- but up more than 11% over the past 14 trading sessions, according to Google Finance.

Shrinking newsroom numbers
Marymont's "Content Evolution'' reference's a year-long study by editors of the larger papers that resulted in the introduction last summer of so-called Passion Topics, another quality control effort focused on subjects of presumably high interest to readers.

The content changes are meant to help editors focus priorities as the newsroom's shrink through layoffs that have cost 20,000 jobs company-wide since 2005. More layoffs are expected through the creation of remote newspaper page production hubs at five dailies for most of the 80 dailies. Those Design Studio hubs were originally to be online by this coming summer, but delays have been reported over major software bugs in the CCI NewsGate front-end system.

Adding a new wrinkle to ongoing payroll cost reduction, a growing number of Gannett Bloggers are speculating that Corporate could announce buyouts for senior employees as early as next week -- workers in their mid-50s and up. Readers here have claimed eligible employees could be offered two weeks' pay for every year of service, perhaps for up to 52 weeks. Those buyout offers would likely include threats of layoffs if an insufficient number of employees apply.

I have confirmed that buyouts are set to be offered at at least one worksite as early as next week. But I have not confirmed any of the other particulars.

Text of Marymont memo

Please make time on your calendars at 3:30 PM ET Thursday, Feb. 2, for a special webinar for USCP journalists.
Gracia Martore will share her vision of the year ahead in Gannett.  Bob Dickey will share thoughts about what he expects in USCP in 2012.

I will talk about our journalism priorities and explain a new training program to support the many initiatives underway -- the CCI installation, Design Studio implementations, Content Evolution and the new business model rollout.




  1. So... wait... does that mean the "Information Center" concept... *gasp*... DIDN'T WORK???

    (It certainly didn't at the TV station I was at. Where I work now, one of our SVPs has implemented it here and so far everyone I've talked to is skeptical, but also optimistic -- skeptical because it's a Gannett thing that failed, but optimistic because we're in a WAY better situation than Gannett.)

  2. Marcos Baer, Publisher Portada (www.portada-online.com). Hi any insights on how this may affect Gannet's Spanish-language efforts?
    See here an article we published several years ago:

  3. Every time Gannett announces a new initiative, it means layoffs. When are they going to realize that you need excellent staff to produce good content? Laying off those over 55 is like cutting off their right hands, and leaving the content up to inexperienced staff. That "passion" thing was laughable. No one wants to know what readers' passions are, and no journalist in his or her right mind wants to write stories about readers' passions.

  4. To update Forrest Gump:
    "Gannett is as Gannett does."

  5. Isn't USCP part of GPS now?

  6. The other day it was suggested we fasten our seatbelts for a bumpy ride.

    I'm thinking we might just want a parachute instead.

  7. More of the same apparently from Dickey and Martore. I agree with a previous poster that this is an ominous sign, seeing as the financial results come out next week too. I forsee more massive layoffs and an even further sharp reduction in content and quality. This company is clueless and led by some major idiots. Time to face the facts, no matter what initiative Gannett attempts, it is destined to go down in flames.

    1. So "run by idiots" is ok Jim but "troll" is nit. You have interesting standards.

  8. 10:30, sure the Information Center worked -- if one defines information as mug shots and cleavage.

  9. Gannett will never offer two weeks of severance for every year worked. Why? Because they don't have to.

  10. Good God. The BS people will spew to hang on to a job. Do you think Marymont believes a word of her memo?

  11. Translation: more editorial layoffs, replaced by a handful of widget processing platform technicians and aggregating metric watchers.

  12. Gracia, a suggestion: cut the bullshit and be honest with your employees. Don't soft pedldle the bad news.

  13. Once upon a time, Kate Marymont was a fine journalist. Then she decided to sell her professional soul.

    In her heart of hearts, she must know that her memos and programs are BS. However, power and money apparently are overwhelming temptations.

    I wonder, though, when her corporate time is up, if she will be able to look proudly into the mirror, knowing that her personal greed and vanity has contributed to the professional demise of so many journalists and the ruin of a vital pillar of democracy.

  14. CCI Installation, Design Studio Implementations, Content Evolution, Passion Topics, Better Sell the Gannett Stock.......

  15. 10:52 I worked for people just like her in the news division about a decade ago. They did not give a hoot and were happy to keep their mouths shut, cut throats and retire happy (or move to cushy Freedom Forum job). The ones with the biggest smiles are the most cold blooded.


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