In December alone, 705 buyouts and layoffs have already been announced. That is the most in any single month since July. That means 15,093 people have received their pink slips or have opted into a buyout package in the newspaper industry this year.
In addition, there are fears of another round of layoffs at The Los Angeles Times that could reach as many as 40 people.
Reducing payroll expenses has had its anticipated effect on newspapers as profits are on the rise once again, as The Associated Press reported last week:
Gannett's profit outlook is for earnings of 48 cents to 62 cents per share for the quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting, on average, a profit of 52 cents per share.
Speaking at the UBS Media and Communications Conference, Chairman, CEO and President Craig A. Dubow said many of the changes the company made during the year were needed because of the economy, but they "also represent necessary permanent changes." These changes have included hundreds of job cuts as the company grappled with an advertising slump made worse by the economic turmoil.
Dave Lougee, president of Gannett's broadcast division, said the year is "ending decidedly different than it began and our underlying trends are now positive."
The remarks from Gannett executives came a day after two other media companies, The New York Times Co. and McClatchy Co., signaled that advertising revenue declines won't be as bad in the current quarter as earlier in the year.
Gannett, based in McLean, Va., had said last week it is reducing the newsroom staff at USA Today by 5 percent. On top of the 26 newsroom jobs at USA Today, 11 jobs will be cut at USA Weekend magazine, a weekly insert in other newspapers. Over the summer Gannett cut 3 percent of its total work force, or 1,400 positions.
So what about next year?
At the UBS convention in New York this month, there was optimism about an upturn in 2010. E.W. Scripps chief executive officer told one session that "in the longer run, we will need to add (newsroom) jobs, add content and raise (circulation) rates," according to Poynter Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds.
McClatchy chief executive officer Gary Pruitt said that the industry will perform "better than analysts' expectations" in 2010, and have cut costs so deeply that they "stand to benefit from even the slightest uptick," Edmonds reported.
But on the other hand, Geoff Ramsey, chief executive officer of eMarketer.com, foresees more of the same for traditional newspaper ad revenues in 2010.
Next year, while broadcast television, radio, newspaper and magazine spending continue to downsize, though more slowly than in 2009, online ad spending will enjoy a nice bump-up: eMarketer currently forecasts 5.5% growth. And the increase won’t all come from search—banner ads will grow 3.3%, and online video will jump by 40%.
A continued downturn in advertising for print content would mean only one thing: more layoffs. You simply do not need the numbers in personnel to produce an electronic verison of your news product as you do for a traditional print product.
Here are my lists of layoffs and buyouts in the newspaper industry so far this year. December's growing list can be seen on the right column.
November -- 293 people.
October -- 375 people.
September -- 347 people.
August -- 425 people.
July -- 2,505 people.
June -- 318 people.
May -- 1,084 people.
April -- 1,350 people.
March -- 3,943 people.
February -- 1,492 people.
January -- 2,256 people.
NOTE: Revised on Dec. 16, 2009 at 12:45 p.m. Eastern to fix a typo.