A newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, just took the step that many newspapers will be forced to take over the next decade, many sooner rather than later: It shut down its print business, fired a third of its staff, and restructured its business to focus exclusively online. We think similar fates will eventually befall most properties owned by the New York Times (NYT), Washington Post (WPO), Gannett, (GCI), et al.
On Saturday, The Capital Times, the city’s fabled 90-year-old daily newspaper founded in response to the jingoist fervor of World War I, stopped printing to devote itself to publishing its daily report on the Web…
in recent years, the paper’s circulation dropped to about 18,000 from a high in the 1960s of more than 40,000. “We felt our audience was shrinking so that we were not relevant,” Clayton Frink, the publisher of The Capital Times, said in an interview two days before the final daily press run. “We are going a little farther, a little faster, but the general trend is happening everywhere.”
The transition in Madison, while long foretold — The Capital Times was doubly part of a dying breed, being the afternoon paper in a two-newspaper town — has hardly been neat and clean and cathartic.
More than 20 members of the newsroom staff lost their jobs, mainly through buyouts, but also through layoffs… The new staff total will be in the 40s. This includes seven new hires in areas like Web producing and arts coverage. Copy editors, by contrast, are “exiting at a higher rate than reporters.”
The Web strategy, while seen as a long-term solution, is still a work in progress… The Capital Times will operate a nearly continuous Web newsroom and focus on repurposing online the cultural and entertainment material the staff will begin to produce in the supplement, 77 Square, to be inserted in The State Journal.
With much hand-wringing, the New York Times is in the process of removing 100 of its 1,300 journalists (8%). Assuming the Capital Times’ firing ratio (so far) holds for national papers, this means that the NYT will eventually have to whack at least 300 more newsroom staffers.
If and when the NYT does shut down its print version, our guess would be that the newsroom cuts will have to go even deeper.
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