Cutting Staff Results in Less Local Coverage
At a time when we’re trying to invent a new medium on the Web and with niche publications, getting rid of content creators—a.k.a. reporters, photographers and editors—is just plain stupid. During an opening panel at the Canadian Newspaper Association in Halifax, I asked an expert on disruptive competition if there was ever an instance of an industry surviving a disruptive influence by cost cutting. “No,” he said. “That would be the worst thing you could do.” Right.
Publishers are comforted that readers haven’t seemed to respond to substantial content reductions. But our consulting firm is seeing evidence that they have noticed. We’re increasingly hearing in focus groups and other encounters with readers that there is just less content, less local news, less town coverage in their newspapers, especially larger metros. The price for this mistake may soon be paid in substantial circulation losses in the years ahead.
And many of the good initiatives on the Web or in niche publications publishers have launched have been crippled by a lack of staff and talent. Newspapers owned the local Web franchise, but that dominance is slipping away. The missed opportunity cost of staffing shortages will turn out to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. We are gutting the golden goose.