Television microphones stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Vice Media, McClatchy Job Cuts Cap Two-Week Media Bloodbath

(Bloomberg) -- The cuts just keep coming.

In a dark two-week stretch for publishing, more than 1,700 media jobs were eliminated at newspapers and online media companies through buyouts and layoffs.

On Friday, McClatchy Co. offered voluntary buyouts to 450 employees, while Vice Media Inc. said it will cut 250 jobs. Last week, BuzzFeed began laying off about 200 employees, while the media unit at Verizon Communications Inc., which includes the Huffington Post and Yahoo, planned to slash about 800 positions. Gannett Co. let go more than 20 people last week at its newspapers.

Vice Media, McClatchy Job Cuts Cap Two-Week Media Bloodbath

It’s the latest round of downsizing in an industry that’s grown accustomed to it. From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped 23 percent to 88,000 from 114,000, according to Pew Research Center. Most of those losses happened at newspapers, whose readers have steadily moved online, hurting once-lucrative print-advertising sales.

Newspapers have been raising the price of their print editions and trying to attract online subscribers to counter the decline. But outside of big publications like the New York Times and Washington Post, it’s been a constant struggle.

“The discouraging part to me is it goes on and on and on, quarter after quarter,” said Rick Edmonds, a media analyst at Poynter.

Digital Divide

On the digital side, Vice, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post are all trying to keep their audiences growing after Facebook changed its algorithm to downgrade news. They’re also competing for advertising dollars with tech giants that can target would-be shoppers with extreme precision and sell ads at low prices.

“They are getting their lunch eaten by Facebook, Google and Amazon,” Edmonds said.

But the latest media cuts don’t all fit into a neat narrative. Instead, they reflect shifting priorities and external pressures. Gannett, which publishes USA Today and dozens of local newspapers, is trying to shore up profit while facing an unsolicited takeover bid from Digital First Media. McClatchy faces a mountain of debt totaling $745 million, according to analyst Ken Doctor.

At Verizon, new Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg has made the company’s wireless-network business the top priority over Huffington Post, AOL and Yahoo, which were purchased by his predecessor. BuzzFeed and Vice have financial backers who want to see a return on their investments.

It’s not all doom and gloom, either. The Los Angeles Times is on a hiring spree under its new billionaire owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, owned by billionaire Glen Taylor, has weathered the storm better than most metropolitan daily newspapers, Edmonds said. And TheSkimm, a daily newsletter aimed at younger women, has been one of the few digital success stories, attracting about 7 million subscribers as of last year.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible business,” Edmonds said, “but the misses outnumber the hits.”

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