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News Flash: Advertisers Dash, Newspapers Slash

above: Rob Tornoe for Editor & Publisher

Yesterday our friend Mike mentioned the state of the newspaper industry:

The industry is already in rough shape, and we can argue how much of that came from the Internet itself and how much was from a colossally foolish lack of response to the Internet and how much of that colossal foolishness was due to stock-swapper stupidity masquerading as newspaper management.

Now advertising has suddenly fallen off a cliff [emphasis added], in large part because why advertise when your doors are closed?

Again, the “why” is less critical than the “what” and the “what” is that wounded newspapers have lost a whole lot of revenue and nobody knows when it will come back, or even if there will ever be a restoration of what we knew as normalcy.

Typically, Mike, as the song goes, “ain’t so very far from wrong.”


above: front page via the Newseum

The Daily Tampa Bay Times Goes Twice Weekly

Poynter, owner of the Tampa Bay Times, relays the story:

The Tampa Bay Times announced Monday that it would suspend print publication except for Sunday and Wednesday due to coronavirus-related business losses. The publication, which Poynter owns, will furlough some staff while print days are suspended.

In a story published to the Tampa Bay Times website, the Times said a growth in subscriptions has not been enough to overcome advertising losses stemming from the pandemic [emphasis added] that are devastating the media industry.

In a memo to staff, Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash outlined the advertising losses.

At the Times, the pandemic sent advertising sales into a plunge. In just the last two weeks, cancellations have cost us more than $1 million, and there is no sign of quick recovery on the horizon. We must act now.

In the linked Tampa Bay Times notice there is the hope it is temporary:

The Tampa Bay Times will temporarily produce print editions only on Sundays and Wednesdays due to a steep drop in advertising because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those are the days when circulation is biggest. The change starts Monday, April 6.

The Times will continue to publish an electronic replica of the newspaper every day at, and the company said it would add pages to the replica edition as it suspends days in print.



Free Weeklies Are Crashing

If the dearth of advertising is crippling the dailies, it is killing the free weeklies.

From The Chicago Reader:

This week’s print issue of the Reader is being distributed as a PDF only, with a small press run to fulfill subscriber and library mailings. We are also making a limited number of copies available for purchase at $15 each. Just 200 copies will be sold in this very limited souvenir edition of the Reader.

From limited edition souvenir copies to coloring books.

Nieman Lab Tells how The Chicago Reader is hoping to survive:

The Reader was already going through a different kind of transition when coronavirus hit, having announced its intention to become a nonprofit last November. When the mandate for social distancing shut down so many of Chicago’s bars, nightclubs, concert halls, and restaurants, the Reader “lost about 90 percent of its ongoing advertising revenue.” [emphasis added] And, as with other free weeklies around the country, it also lost many of its most important points of distribution — those same bars, nightclubs, concert halls, and restaurants.

So what has the Reader done?

The Chains Are Not Spared

We knew there would be cuts following the Gannett-Gatehouse merger, but the times have made it worse.

Poynter reports on Gannett cuts and furloughs:

Gannett advised in a memo to staff this morning that it will be instituting furloughs and other cost reductions in response to big advertising declines [empahasis added].

A separate memo from Maribel Wadsworth, president news at Gannett and publisher of USA Today, said that reporters and editors who earn more than $38,000 annually will be scheduled to take an unpaid week off on a rotating basis.

Gannett has used the same pattern in the past. It allows those affected to arrange a gig to earn some income during that week.

Bascobert’s memo said “… we must now address the financial impact of this pandemic. As in our approach to addressing the impact on our people, we will approach the coming months proactively, thoughtfully and aggressively.”

The Brevard Times looks at the local effects:

The Daily Beast reports that Gannett employees will be furloughed for 5 days a week each month through June and cuts to employee pay will start this week.

Gannett owns 34 local newspapers in Florida that cover mostly suburban areas and smaller cities.

Crestview News
Daily Commercial Leesburg
Daytona Beach News-Journal Daytona Beach
Eglin Dispatch Eglin AFB
Florida Today Brevard…

Poynter also carries the news from Lee Enterprises:

Lee Enterprises joined the list of news organizations hit hard by the coronavirus on Tuesday. In a memo to staff that Poynter obtained, Lee President and CEO Kevin Mowbray thanked employees “for being there when it counts most.” The news of pay cuts and furloughs came nine paragraphs later.

Unfortunately, even our best efforts cannot overshadow the fact that our advertising revenue has been dramatically impacted [emphasis added] now and for the near future. To ensure our own sustainability, it’s important that we manage the economic impact to our company. The sacrifices we make now will minimize the long-term damage the pandemic could have on our business.

The Guardian informs that it is a worldwide problem:

News Corp Australia will stop printing 60 of its local newspapers next week, including the New South Wales title the Manly Daily, which has been in print since 1906.

Dozens of job losses are expected to follow as the community papers – which reached six million people a month – were already under financial strain before the coronavirus hit the advertising industry [emphasis added].

The move came days after Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers warned of “inevitable” job cuts and forced staff to take leave.

Ben Sargent

Community Comments

#1 Mike Peterson
@ 3:13 pm

When the British army came to Plattsburgh, NY, during the War of 1812, one of the things they did as part of their occupation was to visit the offices of the Plattsburgh Republican and smash the pages of set type for the next day’s edition.

However, when they left, the pages were reset and the paper was published the next morning on schedule.

But that was before newspapers were owned by corporate beancounting conglomerates.

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