The New York Times Co. said yesterday that it would cut 500 positions in coming months, or 4 percent of its workforce, hours after the Philadelphia Inquirer announced a planned buyout of 15 percent of its newsroom staff, as two of the nation's largest newspapers tried to offset stagnant advertising revenue and sagging circulation endemic to the industry.
At the Times, the nation's third-largest newspaper with 1.1 million daily customers, about 250 jobs will be cut, the company said, including 45 newsroom employees. The company's New England Media Group, which includes the Boston Globe, will lose about 160 jobs, including 35 in the Globe newsroom. The rest of the cuts will be made elsewhere in the company, including its smaller regional papers and radio and television stations.
National daily newspaper circulation has declined every year since 1987; the same is true of Sunday papers since 1990. Newspapers, once the only source of news, now compete not only with radio and network television, but also with numerous cable television networks and Internet news sources. In addition, other media -- satellite radio, computer games, DVDs, iPods and so forth -- sap time required for reading a daily paper. The death of evening newspapers across the country over the past three decades foretold the current slump.
Some papers, such as the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, have freshened their looks in an effort to win back readers. The Tribune Co.'s Newsday executed a similar redesign last year, but the paper's circulation scandal -- in which it was found to have artificially inflated reader numbers by as much as 20 percent -- made it hard to measure any gain in readers. (Tribune Co. cut about 600 publishing jobs in 2004, most outside newsrooms.)
Other newspapers, such as the Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, have poured millions of dollars into an effort to build Web sites into moneymaking arms of the companies.
Newspaper analyst John Morton, however, said that all media are suffering from an ad slump and that yesterday's cuts do not yet sound the death knell for newspapers.
"In terms of what it's doing to editorial staff, these are not horrible cuts," Morton said. "All three of these papers have fairly fat staffs compared with most other papers, if you take the rule of thumb of one editorial employee for every 1,000 [in] circulation."
The Times Co. cut about 200 jobs, or 2 percent of its workforce, earlier this year. It did not break down those cuts by department. The staff cuts are part of ongoing cost-saving efforts, said Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis, including switching to lighter-weight newsprint. The company has not decided which positions will be eliminated, Mathis said. That process will begin in October and take six to nine months.
"Given the difficulty of the operating environment, we have tried to find a number of ways to more effectively" reduce costs, Mathis said.
In a memo to the Times newsroom staff, executive editor Bill Keller said the job cuts would about be twice the size of a voluntary buyout offered over the summer. He announced an immediate freeze on new hiring that would last until the end of the year and said the newsroom would try to shrink its staff through attrition and another voluntary severance program.
"My hope is that we can bring this off without layoffs," he said in the memo, a copy of which was posted on Jim Romenesko's media Web site.
The Inquirer, owned by Knight Ridder Inc. and the nation's eighth-largest paper with a daily circulation of 388,000, said the buyouts are necessary because recent, non-personnel cost-cutting measures have not countered the advertising and circulation slumps. The Inquirer plans to trim its newsroom staff to 425 jobs from 500, the paper said. The Inquirer's sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News, plans to cut 25 jobs from its 130-person newsroom.
Joseph T. Natoli, publisher of the two papers, said layoffs are inevitable if enough employees do not take buyouts.
The nation's more than 8,000 daily and weekly newspapers also are bracing for a $35-per-metric-ton hike in the price of newsprint expected on Oct. 1. Morton said the increase is the eighth since newsprint prices bottomed out in mid-2002.
The Times announcement came the same day as the company's August revenue report, which showed advertising and overall revenue essentially flat compared with August 2004. The company posted lower revenue if totals from About.com, which the Times Co. bought in March, are excluded.
For the third quarter, the Times Co. said it expects to earn between 11 and 14 cents a share, compared with 33 cents a share in the comparable quarter last year. Ad revenue at the New York Times newspaper group was down 0.8 percent in August compared with August 2004, when ad revenue was up 6.9 percent compared with August 2003.
Other major newspapers and chains have felt the sting of dropping ad revenue and fleeing readers.
Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, last week reported that the Journal's ad volume is down 5.9 percent so far this year from 2004. Tribune Co. reported essentially flat August ad revenue compared with last year.
Post publisher Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. said the company continues to search for ways to cut costs but plans no layoffs. As at other papers, ad sales for the first half of 2005 were essentially flat at The Post, but overall company revenue has not suffered as it has at the Times, owing to a 25 percent growth in revenue at The Post Co.'s Kaplan Inc. education division for the first half of 2005.
Staff writer Annys Shin contributed to this report.