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Guardian News & Media, publisher of The Guardian newspaper and Guardian.co.uk, will cut more than 100 of its 1,700 editorial and commercial jobs as the company moves to reverse “unsustainable” losses, it told staff in a series of briefings at the company’s Kings Place HQ in Wednesday. No timetable has been set for the reduction, part of a long-running cost-cutting review, and no specific areas were mentioned, but the news comes just 24 hours after Observer staff were told their paper is to be slimmed down to four sections a week in the new year.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of parent Guardian Media Group, told assembled staff that she was “confident about the long-term prospects of our portfolio of businesses and investments,” and assured them that GNM will not “cut journalism that is fundamental to our core purpose and values”. But she repeated comments she made earlier this year that GNM would be a smaller organisation even after the recession.
GNM will reopen its offer of voluntary buy-outs (it made staff a similar offer back in May), and hopes to reach the 100-plus person target that way. Compulsory cuts, which the National Union of Journalists has already warned would result in industrial action, will be avoided where possible, but have not been ruled out, GNM said.
Like all publishers, GNM has struggled in the downturn as advertising revenues plummet and the costs of publishing stay high. Highlighting the need for action now, execs said on Wednesday that GNM would lose more in the current financial year than its £36.8 million loss in 2008-9 ($61.6 million), with the benefits of cost savings deferred until 2010-11. The business has so far saved £25 million, largely through staff cuts, but now GNM is admitting: it’s not enough.
The cuts won’t mean a retreat from digital investment, the company said: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, also editor-in-chief of GNM, told staff he “completely believes” in the value of print, but added: “For me, the question is not ‘are we putting too much energy, focus or resource into digital?’ It is ‘are we doing enough?'” GNM MD Tim Brooks said that some Guardian.co.uk revenue streams, such as recruitment ads, were more resilient than others and are expected to return to growth soon; digital display revenue is showing year-on-year growth this fall, he said.
As for GMG overall, McCall said she was confident of the company’s future and pointed out the business is debt free, unlike many rivals. She also argued that GMG’s joint ownership of B2B publisher Emap and Trader Media Group are sound long-term investments: Emap made first-half profits of £40 million ($66.9 million), she said, down just three percent on H108, while TMG made about £55 million ($92 million).
Disclosure: paidContent’s parent company ContentNext is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.