Friday, February 25, 2011

Mail | Hidden costs in Gannett Production Centers

The new 10-K annual report Gannett filed Wednesday with government regulators says the following about the Gannett Production Centers in Des Moines and Indianapolis, which create advertising artwork for the U.S. community dailies:

"The objective is to maintain high quality and service for advertisers while improving efficiency. At the end of 2010, ad production work was being completed for 54 sites, producing nearly 20,500 ads weekly. The remaining sites will transition to the centers by mid-year 2011."

Now, comes 
Anonymous@7:27 a.m., writing of the GPCs:

What was either unrecognized or ignored was that at many sites, the designers had a much longer working relationship with accounts than the sales people did.

Because of historic relative turnover rates, a 20-year designer would often work with a six-month sales person. And it worked, because the skills complemented and we could get the advertiser what they wanted in a timely manner. We bitched about each other in both directions, but the customer was served and ads were sold.

Now, that six-month rep has to learn a hundred products from online and print, deal with an atrociously slow ordering system, learn how to design ads, babysit the proofing process, etc. -- and when something does run, the lack of a local finance department means they also have to follow up with late payers or investigating credits for bad ads.

The publishers/ad directors see reps sitting at their desks working on paperwork -- so low-wage assistants are hired. They might have office skills, but no sales or design experience. We add in a layer which increases chances for miscommunication and delays -- and the rep then has to manage that workflow, too.

No wonder we have reps leaving for web, radio, TV and outdoor. It's easier to sell a product with a tiny audience instead of the huge audience many of our properties still have.


  1. Will every one of the 81 U.S. community dailies -- that is all but Detroit and USA Today -- eventually be sending their artwork assignments to the two GPCs? Or are some exempt?

  2. Wow!! Sounds like the life of a newspaper rep in a nutshell.

  3. 7:27's description of the real world is dead on. "Consolidation" -- that's the trend -- with huge repercussions, brought about by people who should at least know the damage this does to working client relationships.

    Since my layoff, I've been to several businesses whose advertising I had designed. "What the hell happened," some owners have angrily asked, "You used to know exactly what we wanted!"

    Since I'm no longer bound to keep things secret, I'd explain that Gannett kicked me and all the other artists (and their relationships to clients) to the gutter, and dumped the result on its sales reps who are NOT artists.

    Their pricey ad replete with typo's, I happily tell them, is now done by a salesperson or assistant with no background, training, guidance or oversight.

    Or it's now done in a remote production center by any number of lesser paid/experienced widgets who are necessarily limited to the harried salesperson's communication skills (or lack thereof).

    Or it's done in India. You know... the folks of customer service fame who sometimes can't speak English.

    I usually get the "you've got to be kidding" look, which usually precedes the "I'm taking my advertising dollars to a local agency" comment.

  4. A similar story happened in our newsroom: after the layoffs, management experimented with part-timers and that produced a debacle. Perhaps not surprisingly, the part-timers saw their new jobs as a path to becoming full-timers, and so spent extra time perfecting their stories to impress everyone with the final product. Since they were often unfamiliar with the areas they were assigned to cover, they also spent additional time getting up to speed on the history and background behind their stories before writing. The upshot was they often spent two or three days on a story that one of the laid-off veterans familiar with the issues involved could have knocked off in a couple of hours.
    The other logjam came on the editing side as managers spent more time on the stories of part-timers because they didn't trust the part-timers, and realized they were novices unfamiliar with the subject areas they were writing about. This happened as the manager's regular workload from staff veterans increased because the copy desk was decimated by layoffs. With the regular news meetings schedule maintained (mandatory attendance), the system broke down and there were days when some copy didn't make the deadline and were withheld from paper. This only led to more demoralization of the staff whose stories were left out. Of course, there was a noticeable increase in errors and silly mistakes with blame heaped on managers for not properly doing their editing tasks.
    The part-timers idea was eventually scrapped because it actually increased the workload to the point it almost broke down.

  5. 1:41 p.m., You took the words right out of my mouth! I left my job as a graphic designer with Gannett back in 2007. This past summer, I was visiting the city of my former worksite. A number of advertisers approached me and told of their nightmares trying to get a simple ad in the paper. My only response was to hold my hands up in the air and shake my head in utter disbelief. I still think about all the extras I did for my accounts, with little or no charge to them: billboards, inserts, catalogs, sports programs, flyers, business cards, oversized posters, holiday cards and promotional items. Gannett permanently destroyed the healthy, profitable business relationships I worked so hard to maintain for almost a decade. When the newspaper industry is officially declared dead, I will be the first one to call the death a suicide. And the suicide note will signed in blood-red ink by the incompetent leaders of a money-grubbing corporation named Gannett!!!

  6. The GPC is a disaster but the people in charge don't want to admit it or even listen to complaints. The creative is so-so at best. It's hurting sales big time.

  7. What percentage of you complaining sales reps have even tried to contact one or more of your favorite ad designers who have since been laid off? We hear of nothing to this effect.

  8. Unlike journalists, graphic artists don't get bylines. We can never put our name on our work. Sure we can add that work to a portfolio, but no one is going to contact us based on an ad they saw in the paper--unless someone told them who designed it. If you have lost or are about to lose an artist that you love, don't be afraid to ask if they'd like to freelance for you. You'll be helping the artist and your clients as well.

  9. Yes, exactly! Even if any of us former Gannet artists have moved on, freelancing is always a way to make some extra dough. Many if not most of us are unemployed or underemployed and would jump at the chance to utilize our skills doing something we love. And most of us have the equipment we need at home to do so. Call us!

  10. At the bottom of this blog is an "advertise here" space. Why not offer a classified-style section for graphic designers to offer their services? It could go state by state and utilize by-the-line pricing or small ad pricing. Good for Gannett Blog/good for laid-off artists.

  11. 9:23 I don't have the software to make that possible right now. But I'll keep it in mind for the future.

  12. Gpc's, like all other branches of gannett going through consolidation, are just more indicators that this is an industry in decline. Gannett leaders have quietly accepted this and only invest in strategies to maintain margin and slow the demise

  13. Local ad traffickers (former graphic artists and ad builders) at all Gannett newspapers were asked three times since Jan. 2011 to help GPC get the ads proofed out due to overwhelming ads being ordered and/or server problems. Gannett higher-ups said GPC would be able to handle all the ads through both the GPC locations. Well their not if they're asking locals to pick up the slack. By doing so, manager and directors found that not just anyone can be an ad trafficker - they need someone with print and online experience to do these jobs.


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