Thursday, July 17, 2008
Advertiser cuts look like labor action
by Larry Geller
The main article in the Advertiser’s funny sideways business section is no joke—it looks like war against the union. Advertiser's 54 layoffs reflect industry trend doesn’t jibe with the facts, as Ian Lind points out today in an extensive analysis of the situation (see also his short Wednesday article).
There are two ways to frame these cuts. One is the larger newspaper industry woes, but the other is the labor problems here at the Advertiser which is one of the last Gannett newspaper with strong unions representing most of its workforce in the newsroom as well as in sales, production, and distribution.
As Ian notes (in an excerpt from KHON’s coverage), Gannett did not announce layoffs in any of its other papers, only the strongly unionized Advertiser.
He also speculates that Dick Adair will be back on the job soon as the union moves to have him reinstated (assuming Dick wants his job back). I hope to see his cartoons back again soon. I’ve been following Adair’s cartoons since the Pacific Stars and Stripes when we lived in Japan.
At the very end of the Advertiser article today is this indication of what’s to come:
Dubow, while noting the difficult environment for newspapers, said the current situation should not overshadow the company's progress in transforming the company into a world-class digital business while making enhancements to its newspaper and television operations.
As such, Gannett has been building up its Internet business. Locally, The Honolulu Advertiser Web site has been growing and is now the largest online news site in Hawai'i with the most page views and unique visitors.
Gannett obviously looks to the web to replace its traditional news business. This is bad for readers, but also bad for Gannett. Sooner or later Advertisers themselves will notice that the browsers they use increasingly skip ads. The second most popular add-in for Firefox, for example, is Adblock Plus:
Yup, right up there after video downloading is ad blocking. The program that does it is free. The Advertiser site is particularly vulnerable to some of the other available ad blocking programs. All of their ads disappear.
So what will happen as they decimate their core news business at the same time as web readers decimate their web advertising? This is not just a question for the Advertiser, of course, but they seem hell-bent on moving to a web presence that may not work out for them economically in the long run.
The lesson for the newspapers may be that the gods of the Internet are fickle. As are web surfers. Print paper subscribers may be for life, but a web audience can disappear at whim.
Of course, if they can buy their national news cheaply and get rid of local reporters, it could still be viable for the three or four people they’d need to run a website instead of a print operation. Would that skeleton staff even need to be located in Hawaii? I wonder. Websites can be managed from anywhere. Even from another country…
That would be sad.