Rupert Murdoch warned there would be job cuts at News International – and editors of its four titles confirmed today there will be 65 in total, including 15 each at The Sun, News of the World and The Times and 20 of the 280 journalists at The Sunday Times.
James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp (NYSE: NWS) in Europe and Asia, said in a memo this morning (via Guardian.co.uk): “We have identified areas where we can improve efficiency and speed up the production of our titles and websites. This will allow us to strengthen editorial by reinvesting savings into our title.” The last big NI cuts were in June 2007 when 100 jobs went as part of a renewed focus on digital.
The cuts are part of an efficiency drive following Boston Consulting Group’s several month-long review of NI last year — so for example budgets are now 20 percent lower on The Sunday Times’ departments compared to last year and freelance rates are 10 percent lower. Similar cuts have been going on in NI’s commercial departments where there have been tens of redundancies and Times Newspapers’ sales staff merged with News Group, publisher of The Sun and News of the World
But at the heart of these cuts is a fundamental change in way newspapers organise resources between print and online. Designers and sub-editors will make up the majority of the redundancies and on The Times the ones that stay, many of whom have only worked either online or in print only, will be merged into an integrated team. The Times‘s print and online picture desks will also be brought together into one operation — meaning there can’t be many journalists left on The Times who don’t work on online somehow. On The Sun, newspaper sports subs will be shown how to edit web pages and Sun editor Rebekah Wade says in a memo to staff (also via Guardian.co.uk) that the cuts represent a chance to “modernise the way we do things, fully merge print and online”.
For those that think merging online and print staff sounds a bit 2004, it is evidence that national newspaper groups like NI have hitherto allocated staff toward the most profitable operations, ie. print. But with these companies desperately looking for new online revenue models — and with no one wanting to be left out if and when such a model arrives — that’s no longer the case…
Few would argue with Simon Kelner, MD of the Independent newspapers, who when announcing 60 redundancies at the Indie last year said that INM’s papers had “1986 working practices and 2008 technology” and had daily unnecessary practices such as five levels of editing. And as similar integration continues at the Telegraph, Guardian News and Media and across the regional titles, these cuts show that publishers don’t see online as additional extras any more.