Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More on the layoffs

Information continues to arrive on today's Booth job massacre. Apparently, Dan Gaydou (who I always liked and respected) stood in front of folks, I believe in Grand Rapids, and explained that the company had to make a bold move and had to do it now. Next year, would have been too late. That kind of talk seems to indicate that all the positive talk about profitability we've been hearing for the past 8-9 months was corporate crap.

Actually the time to do something bold was 12 years ago, but none of the management was smart enough to see it or do it then. Why the same folks that were asleep at the switch 12 years ago think they are able to fix it now escapes me.

The layoffs seem very extensive throughout the chain. What also seems apparent is that the severance packages are not nearly as generous as in the past. Some of the folks getting the layoffs and severance will have a chance to apply for the new jobs, but I'd bet dollars to donuts the wage and benefit packages will be much reduced when they are offered.

There are reports of editors resigning and other editors being laid off. At least one sports editor is gone, according to sources. It is all very sad.

The Flint area editor is apparently defending the company's actions on Facebook, at least according to these comments I received.

Here's the whole Q&A about the Flint Journal as published on MLive. com.

And the video of Publisher Dan Gaydou is here at


Anonymous said...

It's good to hear MLive is being redesigned. Helloooooo? Of course, that should've been done years ago. I agree with someone who said it is the worst online news site they'd ever seen. To me, it is a boring maze that somehow compels you to leave the site ASAP and not enjoy yourself while there. Site navigation is a joke. With most of the same people in control, I also agree with Jim and this is such a key point: these people have gotten the company in the position it is in now through years of poor if not bad management and almost no vision. Steve Jobs these peeps ain't! So now these same folks are supposed to turn things around in cities, like Flint, Saginaw and Bay City, which in many senses are more like Beirut than mid-Michigan cities? Ah, no, probably not. Scary. Um, boy, they better get it right THIS TIME, huh?

One post mentioned a long-time FJ reporter got his or her walking papers. What long-time FJ reporter? I'm not asking for a name, but I wasn't aware of any remaining veteran FJ reporters, unless you consider the likes of Ron Fonger as a long-time FJ reporter.

As to the new company's fate? Sorry, but I don't see how papers like the FJ will be able to profit from the tsunami-like move from the Internet to tablet PCs and mobile phones. Not that there isn't ad revenues to be made on these platforms, but probably not by regional, still-mostly-paper news models who are STILL too big to sustain themselves long-term. Time will tell, of course, but the company big-wigs keep touting these changes as positive signs of health and growth and blah blah blah, while ad revenues and circulation decline and more layoffs occur. Even though has been a laughing stock, it seems like the FJ, at least, plans to emulate this model with their move to another downtown site, only this one with shiny new monitors and USB ports, as if they alone will crank out news stories on autopilot for all the reporters let go by the company.

Though consolidating offices and certain functions can result in cost savings and even some streamlined operations, as I said earlier, I believe that even with all these changes, the new company is probably still too large to be viable long-term. One wonders if all the geniuses in charge already know this... Nah, I really don't think they can see clearly beyond their next golf tee time.

Lord, how about an answer to the question on everyone's mind: What happens to that Andy Heller feller?

Jim of L-Town said...

Andy, as I understand it doesn't work full time at the paper anymore. He, I believe, was caught in the last buyout and works on a part-time or per diem basis at this time.

Maybe you were just being funny.

Anonymous said...

I feel for those who now have to transition to something new as someone already has been on that journey … But I know many former Boothies who have gone on to better things … So, sometimes change is good … Stay, strong.

Lastly, I hope something is done to save the FJ building … It is a beautiful structure and would be a shame and a loss for Flint if it falls into disrepair or is torn down …

Anonymous said...

Not only are more and more folks going online for their news, if they follow the news at all, but "online" for those same people increasinly means tablet PCs and smartphones and NOT the suddenly outmoded table-top PC.

Some supporting observations and facts...

--Google no longer calls itself a “search engine” – their new mantra is “mobile first."

--Wired magazine is more ominous, proclaiming urgently on its cover more than a year ago... The Web is Dead.

--Apple doesn’t want to be in the “computer business” anymore – they’re a “mobile company” now!

--There are already 5 billion people walking around with mobile phones -- that means mobile is already nearly five times bigger than the Internet.

--More than HALF of all new Internet connections are from mobile “smartphones”... and of these 5 billion cell phone owners 51 million-plus smartphone surfers are carrying these pocket-size computers around with them around the clock.

--91% of Americans keep their cell phone within three feet of them 24/7 … and about a third of people with a cell phone would rather be without their wallet than their phone.

--Twice as many people own a mobile phone than have access to the Internet

--270+ million mobile phones are in use in the United States (CTIA, 2009).

--120 billion text messages are sent/received every month in the U.S. More than 4 billion every day (CTIA, October 2009).

--45% of brands have already deployed text messaging campaigns (mformobile).

--In the next five years over half of brands will spend between 5% and 25% of their total marketing budget on mobile (mformobile).

--70% of text message users are between 18 and 44 years old.

--One in five households have cut their landline and only have a mobile phone (NCHS, 2009).

--Mobile phone is the most important device in an American's daily life (Pew Research, 3/08).

--38 years old is the median age of a text message user (CTIA).

These facts are all signs of the almost invisible undertow from PCs to mobile. Sure, many of us still fire up the ol' PC at home many evenings, but how much longer? And due to the above facts, how much longer until most ad spending will be in mobile and not desktops and certainly not graying mid-Michigan papers?

Mobile advertising is, more than anything else, extremely targeted. I can place an ad for a male baldness product on the smartphones or tablets of males 25 to 49 in Flint and Saginaw, as an example. Most everyone knows that print ads are among the most expensive, least read, least targeted advertising for the dollar.

Amid all this, can papers like the FJ survive? Maybe, but they must deliver huge value on and off line. But with a newsroom full of young, underpaid bloggers, that's about as likely as Flint being named as the 2012 Safest City in America.

Yes, Booth, et al, is changing its business model, but will it emerge truly nimble enough and truly ready to duke it out for ad dollars in the digital age? And will the new MLive mistakenly overlook mobile for the fastly fading PC/Internet model?

One thing's certain: if the new company wants to play in the digital sandbox, it'll more and more need to operate on Internet time. It must change faster. Unfortunately, if it continues to get things wrong, look for these spasms of change and layoffs to occur more often -- at least until the company's final change: closure.

Anonymous said...

Jim, this is Anonyumous 08:48. I knew Andy's status. Though he has no full-time at the FJ to lose in this new round of changes, his fate still could change. Will they still want him or need him as a columnist? If they change his compensation, whatever that is, will he still want to write for the paper? That's all I meant.

Jim of L-Town said...

That's a good question and I don't know the answer. Other than an occassional exchange on Facebook I don't see or talk to Andy.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how many digital subscribers they have? I am willing to bet it is less than you may think. Fact is The printed edition is still paying the bills.

I don't really think they know what the hell they're doing. They are letting people go that they have no idea how much they are vital to production operations.

They are putting all their eggs in one basket at Valley.

Anonymous said...

The writer above makes a good point. On one hand, the ink-on-newsprint product is treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. On the other, guess what was thrown in my yard every Thursday, Friday and Sunday for much of August and September up here in the Tri-Cities? Yep, free copies of The Snooze I never requested. These "leaders" do not have a clue.