Seattle Times Co. to cut work force by about 10%

by Nick Perry, Seattle Times

The Seattle Times Co. announced more cutbacks today, including a reduction of 130 to 150 staff positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs.

The reduction amounts to just under 10 percent of the remaining work force and comes seven months after a similar round of cutbacks.

In a memo to staff, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and company President Carolyn Kelly blamed the moves on industry changes and the worldwide financial crisis. They said the company needs to adjust to structural changes that have reduced advertising revenue in all media. Even the growth of online revenue — previously a bright spot for the company — has stalled during the worldwide economic slowdown, Blethen and Kelly wrote.

The company hinted there might be more cutbacks to come: "As the 2009 budgeting process continues, there will be additional expense reductions, which may include additional layoffs," the memo stated.

"As difficult as these operating decisions are, it is important to remember we have been here for 112 years, weathering many ups and downs, and these budget actions are necessary to respond to the current economic conditions and to position our newspaper and online operations for many more years of success and community service," wrote Blethen and Kelly.

The memo did not specify other ways in which the company intended to reduce expenses. In an e-mail, Times spokeswoman Corey Digiacinto said the company won't be able to confirm any specifics until individual departments have been notified.

Newspapers across the country have been laying off thousands of workers and slashing budgets this year as they struggle to adjust to falling revenue. For The Seattle Times and many other papers, a sharp drop-off in classified advertising — as people turn more to the Internet to sell refrigerators or used cars — has been a big part of the problem.

Circulation numbers have also been falling. Last month, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that the combined weekday circulation of 507 newspapers across the country fell 4.6 percent from a year earlier. The Seattle Times saw average weekday circulation decline 7.7 percent to about 199,000, while the Seatltle Post-Intelligencer dropped 7.8 percent to about 118,000. The circulation for the Sunday paper — which bears both the Times and P-I mastheads — fell 9.1 percent to 382,000, the bureau reported.

Under a joint-operating agreement, The Times handles business operations of The Hearst Co.'s P-I. Both papers maintain separate newsrooms.

Blethen and Kelly pointed out in their memo that The Seattle Times was one of the few metro newspapers in the U.S. to increase circulation between 2000 and 2007, and that The Seattle Times online network continues to perform well compared with its peers.

article originally published at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008345566_webtimes03m.....

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