Yesterday, Alan Mutter promised a detailing of just what newspapers might do when things turn really sour in Q1 of 2009. Today, he delivers. But the list – at least at the beginning – sounds awfully familiar already:
The list of potential expense reductions includes squeezing staffing, shuttering bureaus, carving out layers of middle management, telescoping multiple sections of the paper into one, tightening newshole, scrapping syndicated features and wire serevices, axing op-ed pages and book sections and eliminating classified ads on certain days of the week….
Another alternative will be to ask employees to accept voluntary pay cuts, to agree to work longer hours, and to ease manning requirements and other work rules. Bonuses may be reduced or eliminated for the fortunate few who still would have qualified for them.
He then walks through the increasingly extreme cuts papers could and, in many cases, will make, ending with this cheery thought:
This will last as long as the newspapers continue to generate operating profits. But it is highly unlikely in this environment that any creditor would provide additional cash to prop up a money-losing newspaper.
In other words, a newspaper that cannot sell enough advertising or cut enough expenses to sustain profitable operations is not likley to make it to the other side of 2009.
Is it time for a newspaper dead pool?