MA Newspaper Owner: Layoffs Will Continue Until Subscriptions Improve

More than a dozen of Massachusetts’ top mid-sized newspapers are facing even more layoffs, because $32 million in profit isn’t enough for their Wall Street owners. Reports David L. Harris in the Boston Business Journal:

The cuts come as the company, which owns more than 100 newspapers in Massachusetts including the Patriot Ledger and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, reports a 50 percent drop in profit for 2016 — to $32 million on $1.3 billion in generally flat revenue. New Media blamed its challenged financial results on the “further decline in traditional print” as well as a challenging holiday season experienced by its retail advertisers, which caused lower advertising spending.

It’s not immediately clear if those cuts would come from its workforce itself, but the company did say that the savings would come from “synergies from out latest acquisitions.” GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis did not immediately return a message seeking comment. [...]

So far, New Media has spent $735 million buying up newspapers since it was formed in 2014, taking advantage of the flagging value of print newspapers across the U.S. New Media is managed by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group, which announced last week it would be acquired by Japanese multinational firm SoftBank Group for $3.3 billion.

Gee, I wonder why traditional print is declining? Who can say, we’re too busy laying off all our reporters and editors and literally selling customers a smaller newspaper for the same price! But it’s OK because we’re using the money to hire digital sales reps! Of course, we have no editors left, so the ad space they’re selling is on a “newspaper website” that has pictures of people with no heads:

My local New Bedford Standard-Times is owned by GateHouse Media (formerly Liberty Group Publishing), which after bankruptcy was reorganized under New Media Investment Group, Inc., which is owned by private equity giant Fortress Investment Group LLC with $70.2 billion in assets. It somehow scraped together enough to pay GateHouse Media CEO Kirk Davis $2.1 million in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Standard-Times has laid off so many staffers that it’s leased out a big chunk of its space to a bank.

In Massachusetts, New Media/GateHouse/Fortress/SoftBank Group owns:

  • The Cape Cod Times
  • The Standard-Times of New Bedford
  • The Herald News of Fall River
  • Taunton Daily Gazette
  • The Enterprise of Brockton
  • MetroWest Daily News of Framingham
  • Telegram & Gazette of Worcester
  • The Eagle-Tribune of Andover
  • Daily News of Newburyport
  • Gloucester Daily Times
  • Salem Evening News
  • The Milford Daily News
  • The Patriot Ledger of Quincy

But are the layoffs a bug or a feature? As Wall Street owners keep laying off journalists, their industry friends can keep pushing their “alternative facts” to the skeleton staff left behind.

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6 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Ain't that the truth

    Hey – the fact that Keren plays a wind instrument without a head is the story! It’s a triumph over adversity! Not having a head doesn’t keep her from getting ahead! :-)

    More seriously, I think back to years ago when I gave up on home delivery of the Globe. Partly because of all the above but also after a reading a story about a great way people were saving money when buying homes. They just bought them outright rather than take out a mortgage so you didn’t have to pay interest!

    I thought wow that’s just beyond ignoring the realities of working folks in their desperate bid to cater the upper 10% – it’s so clueless it’s embarrassing. Almost as bad as John McCain’s $50/hour for picking lettuce nonsense…

  2. As Dan Kennedy put it....

    …Gatehouse isn’t sending it’s profits out of the state anymore, it’s sending them out of the country!

    And of course, this new model presupposes that you have a thousand a year to buy Internet access.

    But more troubling is the marked homogeneity of content and editorial POV. Every newspaper in my County is under their control except one weekly, and it shows up in content. Rarely get AP stories any more, it’s all WaPo which they happen to own as well.

    • WaPo owned by New Media/GateHouse/Fortress/SoftBank???

      Did I miss the story where Jeff Bezos sold the WaPo?

    • Curious as to the reason...

      …for the downrate of the above comment.

      • The reference to WaPo

        As pogo pointed out.

        Unless the “they” binds to something other than Gatehouse. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos. The AP has no single owner.

        I don’t know what “homogeneity of content and editorial POV” the comment refers to. The last paragraph sounds an awful lot like Mr. Trump’s whining about “the media”. Neither the AP nor the Washington Post suffer from “homogeneity of content”. I’m not sure the AP even has an “editorial POV”.

        The Washington Post and New York Times are two of the last real newspapers remaining in this nation. They insist on reporting real facts and real news.

        The attacks on them reek of guilt and shame.

      • Christopher, another troubling thing

        The ownership of the marquee newspapers gets recognition, but what is less noticed is that they now own all the little weeklies too. So reporting on local zoning changes, selectmen, town meeting, etc. has plummeted and content is now circulated within the Gatehouse chain – with no additional pay to the writer, if the piece is in one paper, or in 25.

        Local news is being crushed – but they aren’t reporting on it, are they?
        (Addressed to you because you seem interested).

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