Posts Tagged ‘N&O’

News & Observer records solid first quarter

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Employees at The News & Observer in Raleigh fearing a new round of cuts with the end of the year’s first quarter were able to exhale Monday. A memo  to employees from Publisher Orage Quarles III says the newspaper exceeded “budgeted goals in all categories” during the first three months of 2010.

The note gives few details, but credits “better than expected advertising revenue performance and a continued focus on expenses.” The Advertising Department’s “third annual online sales blitz” racked up “more than $1 million in annualized sales,” Quarles adds.

“There are still question marks about the economy and its effect on our ad revenues, but we are seeing signs that the worst may be behind us.  We certainly hope so,” the memo says.

More McClatchy papers announce layoffs

Friday, January 15th, 2010

After The News & Observer and the Sacramento Bee opened the week by announcing the elimination of 46 jobs between them, more McClatchy papers followed: The State of Columbia, S.C., announced Tuesday it was laying off 12 in its newsroom and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said Thursday it would layoff 28 employees and eliminate 17 open jobs. Also on Tuesday, the Anchorage Daily News announced an undisclosed number of job cuts.

The Sacramento Business Journal on Monday said McClatchy, the owner of 30 daily newspapers,  has cut a total of 4,150 jobs since June 2008 – an average of 138 per newspaper.

N&O eliminates 21 positions, SacBee axes 25

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The News & Observer announced the elimination of 21 positions this morning, including 10 from the newsroom. The Sacramento Bee, another McClatchy newspaper, announced the elimination of 25 positions.

The reductions represent “the latest cuts as the media company rides out a sharp decline in revenue,”  The N&O’s report says.

In a memo to the newsroom, Managing Editor John Drescher said five newsroom employees in single-incumbent jobs — meaning they are the only ones who do their jobs — were told today their last day at the newspaper will be January 29. In addition, five employees from  photo, design, copy editing and news research must come forward to have their positions eliminated or staff members will be let go according to seniority.

“We continue to operate in a time of great challenge at The News & Observer, at The McClatchy Company and within the newspaper industry,” N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III said in his announcement to staff. “While we have already implemented a number of cost-control and reorganization measures, revenues continue to show losses, and we must reduce our expenses until we are again showing growth.”

In December, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said all of the company’s daily papers were making a profit. Pruitt also said at the time that more cost reduction, in the high-20 percent range, would be necessary in 2010.

In addition to the ongoing decline of the newspaper industry, McClatchy has been burdened by about $2 billion in debt acquired mostly in its  2006 acquisition of Knight Ridder. The company has wiped out some $1.4 billion of the debt over the last four years, according to a previous Editor & Publisher report.

The N&O has 524 full-time positions today, down from 704 a year ago, according to the newspaper’s report about today’s layoffs. The newspaper last year also cut wages, suspended contributions to retirement plans and required unpaid furloughs for its staff.

Last year, The N&O had layoffs or buyouts in April and August, after a previous round in October 2008 and various other jobs eliminated earlier.

Quarles told his reporter today that it’s too soon to say whether there could be more cuts this year, a decision that will hinge mostly on how much ad sales rebound.

“I know that these announcements are distracting and disruptive, and I apologize for that,” Quarles’ e-mail said. “We can only ask, with utmost respect and gratitude for all that you do, that everyone stays focused and continues to work hard to help our company continue to make its way through these difficult times.”

“This is another sad day,” Drescher said.

McClatchy restructured a portion of its debt in December and has seen its stock price double since.  It rose 25 cents Monday, topping $5 to settle at $5.14 a share at closing.

“When it announces its latest earnings next week, McClatchy is expected to report that fourth-quarter revenue fell by a percentage in the low-to-mid-20s, compared with a 28 percent drop in the third quarter,” The N&O today.

N&O employee sales contest nets 245+ orders

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The News & Observer’s move to draft all of its employees to sell subscriptions has resulted in more than 245 paid orders sold by 65 employees, VP for Circulation Jim Puryear told The N&O’s staff in an e-mail Friday.

The paper is paying  “commissions totaling a whopping $10,000” in  December 11 paychecks. And because the contest exceeded its goal of 200 paid orders, gift cards worth a total  of $550 went to  four salesmen.

One of the “salesmen” taking home a gift card was reporter Matt Ehlers, who ran a classified ad in The N&O and on Craigslist in his effort to sell subscriptions.

The contest’s top seller — not Ehlers — sold 66 subscriptions.

The contest began October 1 and ran through November 23, with subscriptions sold at a discount. Employees earned a 50 percent commission on each sale.

N&O cracks E&P’s Top 30 sites

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Even before its redesign (see below) The News & Observer’s Web site was pulling in enough readers to rank 27th on Editor & Publisher’s Top 30 newspaper Web sites for the month of August.

The Nielsen Online list shows newsobserver.com with 1.8 million unique visitors in August. This is shown as a 110 percent gain year-over-year, but Nielsen expanded its measurement panel eight-fold in June and cautions that the measurements should only be used directionally.

E&P’s Fitz & Jen blog shows The N&O right behind the Denver Post’s site, which at 1.9 million visitors is also new to the list in the last three months, and ahead of the Arizona Republic’s site, the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Kansas City Star’s site, a fellow McClatchy property.

McClatchy’s Miami Herald site ranks 17th on the list with 2.5 million visitors.

The New York Times site tops the list with 17.1 million unique visitors, followed by the Washington Post site with  11.6 million unique visitors.

N&O’s new site easy once they show you how

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The News & Observer’s newly designed Web site debuts today, with the paper and the site itself touting it as easier to use. Yet, as a friend said, “It was a bit puzzling to see that The N&O had to include a video to explain to readers that the new Web site was much more reader-friendly.”

The redesign includes “one cool feature,” an index tab (at upper right); the ability to customize the categories of news that show up in the news grid on the lower half of the page; revolving “featured stories” at the top of the home page; and additional navigation tabs.

Wednesday morning, the home page also featured a lot of empty space.

McClatchy paper to lay off 12

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on Tuesday announced that it is reducing its workforce by 10 full-time and two part-time employees.

The McClatchy Co. newspaper has been through several rounds of layoffs and voluntary buyouts since early 2008. The most recent and largest of those was in March, when the newspaper laid off 49 full-time and four part-time employees, and reduced wages for remaining employees.

“The economic downturn has lasted longer than expected, and despite an upturn in the second quarter, the advertising climate remains extremely challenging,” Publisher Timothy M. Kelly said in a message to the staff Tuesday.

McClatchy, the publisher of 30 daily newspapers – including The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer – has eliminated thousands of jobs to deal with revenue declines and to preserve its ability to make payments on about $2 billion in debt undertaken in the purchase of the much-larger Knight Ridder newspaper chain in 2006.

In its most recent cuts, The News & Observer laid off 10 employees in August.

Community newspapers faring better

Monday, September 21st, 2009

A new survey backs up the notion that “local” is better – half as bad, actually – for newspaper revenue.

Figures from Suburban Newspapers of America say that ad revenue at community newspapers dropped 12.4 percent in the second quarter of 2009 year-over-year, according to Editor & Publisher. The Newspaper Association of America says newspaper ad revenue in general fell 29 percent in the same quarter.

The SNA survey included 32 community newspaper organizations totaling 12.5 million in circulation.

As we’ve noted recently, The News & Observer has adopted community newspapers as an efficient vehicle for delivering ad inserts and, in addition to The N&O, currently publishes nine weekly or semi-weekly papers in the Triangle.

McClatchy stock listing survives

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

The McClatchy Co., owner of The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and 28 other daily newspapers, has escaped a de-listing threat from the New York Stock Exchange, the firm reports.

The NYSE said in February that the publisher’s stock must maintain an average value of at least $1 for 30 days before January 7  or it would be taken off of the board. McClatchy said in a news release Friday that it has met compliance standards.

McClatchy stock, which had reached a high of $74.50 in April 2005 before missing an earnings call and beginning to tumble, fell to a low of 44 cents in July. Through layoffs and other expense cuts, the firm posted a profit for the second quarter of 2009 and the stock jumped as high as $2.29 a share in July. So far this month, it has bounced between $1.99 and $1.71 per share.

More layoffs expected, despite profits

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Poynter Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds counts six newspapers that have announced layoffs this month alone – “once-proud, top-ranked regionals, three of them owned by McClatchy” – despite a return to profitability in the second quarter.

But profits have come from cutting expenses, not increasing revenue. Ad revenue continues to drop by 25 to 30 percent over last year, according to Edmonds.

“(S)taying profitable will require continued vigilance on expenses,” he says. “A little of that takes care of itself – reduced paper use since so much less advertising and news is being printed. But companies targeting above-average profit levels – like Gannett – or forced to keep profits up to handle a high level of debt – like McClatchy – will continue to work the outsourcing and down-sizing option.

“Still, I fret that many newspapers are flirting with the tipping point of seeming expendable to discerning readers who can see the gaps and flaws caused by cutting too much too fast.”

(Note: the author of this site was among 10 people laid off from The News & Observer in Raleigh, a McClatchy newspaper, this month.)