US news media hit by brutal job losses
Worst year in a decade as sector fails to monetise internet readership
Washington — The struggling US media industry is facing its worst year for job layoffs in a decade as news organisations continue to cut staff and close shop, according to a new survey.
The consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas reported this week that media companies, which include movies, television, publishing, music, and broadcast and print news, announced plans to cut 15,474 jobs so far in 2019, of which 11,878 of which were from news organisations.
That is nearly three times more than the 4,062 cuts announced in the media sector in 2017 and the highest total since the economic crisis in 2009.
“Members of the media, especially journalists, have had a tough few years,” said Andrew Challenger, vice-president of the Chicago-based firm.
“Many jobs were already in jeopardy due to a business model that tried to meet consumer demand for free news with ad revenue. As media outlets attempted to put news behind pay walls, in many markets, consumers opted not to pay.”
Some of the notable events in 2019 included the closing of the Youngstown Vindicator, the only daily in the Ohio city, with 144 jobs lost, and the sale of the New Orleans Times-Picayune resulting in the loss of most of the 250 newsroom jobs.
But the troubles have also hit the digital sector with BuzzFeed cutting 200 employees in January and Verizon eliminating 800 jobs in its media division, which includes Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost, the Challenger report noted.
The report said media companies have been unable to keep pace with Facebook and Google in tailoring ads for customers based on their interests, making it hard to generate online revenue.
It also noted that a rise in browser ad-blocking extensions has made it increasingly difficult to monetise online news.
“Job cuts and consolidations are likely to continue until these companies are able to find ways to create growth in revenue streams,” Andrew Challenger said.
He added that subscription-based models will only work if news organisations can convince consumers of the importance and value of their news.
“Another possibility for media companies is to monetise users’ personal data, as Facebook and Google have,” he said.
“There are obvious ethical implications and potential legal issues, however, especially as privacy laws begin to pass in various jurisdictions across the country. Ultimately, the quality of the country’s news will start to decline if we as users refuse to pay for it.”