Archive for the ‘CareerBuilder’ Category

Moodys: GCI partner MediaNews headed for default

December 11, 2008

That would add even more pressure on the unfolding Detroit drama, where MediaNews Group under CEO William Dean Singleton (left) owns 5% of the Detroit Media Partnership joint operating agency; Gannett owns the rest.

From trade journal Editor & Publisher‘s just-posted story: “Moodys Investors Services predicted Thursday that William Dean Singleton‘s MediaNews Group will soon be in at least technical default of its credit agreement — with a debt load that is nearly as staggering as the leverage that led Tribune Co. to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.”

MediaNews disagrees with Moodys, and rejects E&P‘s comparison to Tribune. Gannett and MediaNews are also tied together through the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership. Meanwhile, Gannett is partners with Tribune in two ventures: employment website CareerBuilder, and website entertainment chain Metromix.

Jobs site CareerBuilder finally concedes mass layoff

December 11, 2008

It took a telephone call from the Chicago Tribune to get the big Gannett-controlled employment website to fess up about axing more than 300 jobs last Friday. (This is why I don’t trust publicists any further than I can throw ’em.) The firm is pushing ahead with plans for a big promotional splash during the 2009 Super Bowl, chief marketing officer Richard Castellini told the newspaper.

Connell: CareerBuilder, other tax breaks ‘common’

December 9, 2008

The notion that Gannett used a tax break to create jobs in one city, while simultaneously eliminating jobs elsewhere is misleading, company spokeswoman Tara Connell told Dow Jones Newswires this afternoon. “It’s common business practice when enlarging or moving a corporate headquarters or consolidating business units to get a tax break and change headcount in one place while building it in another,” the news service quotes Connell saying.

Connell responded to Dow Jones’s questions after the service followed my reports that leading employment website CareerBuilder had laid off more than 300 employees — and possibly as many as 400 — at its Chicago headquarters on Friday. Those cuts came just two months after the company got a $2.9 million tax break from the city of Chicago to enlarge its headquarters there. Majority-owned by Gannett, CareerBuilder had promised to add 185 jobs as part of the expansion.

Connell and other Gannett officials rarely communicate with Gannett Blog. Now, call me crazy, but isn’t Connell — a former USA Today managing editor — confirming what I wrote? The distinction she seems to be drawing is that everyone does this, so it’s misleading for me to suggest this is news. (Trust me: Anytime a publicist tells a reporter that something “isn’t news” — it almost always is.)

‘No information’ about layoffs
Asked today about any layoffs, a CareerBuilder spokesperson told Dow Jones: “I have no information.”

The Dow Jones stories are not online, so I cannot link to them. CareerBuilder has not returned my calls seeking more information. I’m also still waiting for a response from Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development; it granted the tax giveaway in early October. With these layoffs, however, it’s unclear whether CareerBuilder has lost the tax break. The company had threatened to leave Chicago without the public money.

As I noted yesterday, this is at least the second time a Gannett business has won a tax break for creating jobs in one city, while reducing jobs elsewhere.

A tale of two rooms
How Friday’s mass layoff went down, according to recruitment blog Cheezhead: “Certain groups were alerted via e-mail at 12:50 p.m. CT that at 1 p.m. they were to go to a conference. Those going to one room were safe, while those in the other were cut.”

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Blog: CareerBuilder layoffs are ‘closer to 400’

December 9, 2008

Employee recruitment blog Cheezhead is swarming today with comments from CareerBuilder workers who say they were laid off Friday in a big downsizing at Chicago headquarters — cuts the Gannett-controlled website hasn’t formally acknowledged. A published report yesterday put the number of jobs cut at more than 300 — just two months after CareerBuilder won a $2.9 million city tax break to add jobs at its main office.

A Cheezhead poster wrote today: “The number is actually closer to 400. They have been laying/firing small numbers since August to avoid a mass layoff. There were several executives and managers laid off. Job losses were not just from sales — but from all areas of the company. With the Tribune filing for bankruptcy, there will be more.”

At 400, the cuts would equal about 20% of the 13-year-old company’s more than 2,000 workers. I’ve left a second message today with CareerBuilder, seeking comment. I’ve also left a second message with the city of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development; it granted CareerBuilder the tax giveaway in early October, in return for promises it would add 185 jobs.

Blogger: How it went down
Cheezhead gave what it said was an inside account of Friday’s layoff:

“Apparently, certain groups were alerted via e-mail at 12:50 p.m., CT that at 1 p.m. they were to go to a conference. Those going to one room were safe, while those in the other were cut. Then, at 3:30 p.m., there was a company-wide conference call with CEO Matt Ferguson (left) who communicated the difficulty of the day.”

Cheezhead continues: “Most people cut were apparently from the small business units, which call on companies with less than 100 employees. However, every unit was said to be ‘affected in some capacity.’ Marketing was another department that may have been hit harder than most. Sources explained the firings were in large part due to the fact that ‘revenue is down 5%.’ One source expressed fear that if the economic decline continues, there will be more cuts.”

Report: 300 CareerBuilder layoffs follow tax break

December 8, 2008

The big employment listings website controlled by Gannett has laid off more than 300 employees, a published report says today — just two months after winning a $2.9 million tax break to add 185 jobs at its Chicago headquarters.

This is at least the second time a Gannett business has won a tax break for creating jobs in one city, while simultaneously eliminating jobs elsewhere. CareerBuilder had threatened to leave Chicago without the public money.

“Most of the laid-off workers are from the Chicago corporate headquarters,” the East Valley Tribune near Phoenix, Ariz., reports. “However, some have also been let go from the Atlanta offices. The company’s public information office in Chicago refused to answer questions about the layoffs, although a telephone call by the East Valley Tribune to a branch office near O’Hare Airport confirmed the layoffs were made Friday morning.”

CareerBuilder won the nearly $3 million in Tax Increment Financing to help pay for an $11.6 million renovation of Chicago office space at 200 North LaSalle St., the city’s Department of Planning and Development said in a statement on Oct. 8.

“Eight hundred employees will be located at the headquarters,” the statement says. “CareerBuilder will also retain 615 positions at three other affiliate offices in Chicago, and add 185 jobs over the next two years. CareerBuilder had been considering relocating the majority of its employees to one of its other locations before selecting Chicago for its corporate headquarters.”

The impact of any layoffs on the Tax Increment Financing isn’t clear. I’ve asked CareerBuilder and the Chicago planning department for comment.

Earlier tax breaks in Indiana
Gannett owns 50.8% of CareerBuilder. Tribune Co., which just filed for bankruptcy protection, owns 30.8%. The rest is held by McClatchy Co. and Microsoft.

In September, the state of Indiana agreed to give GCI up to $935,000 in tax credits for creating up to 200 jobs at a new finance center in Indianapolis. A second finance center is being developed in Springfield, Mo. The centers will consolidate accounting and other work that’s been done at the local level across Gannett. A net 167 jobs were to be eliminated in this consolidation.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Breaking: Tribune files for bankruptcy protection

December 8, 2008

Burdened by debt after going private a year ago, Tribune Co. — publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and 10 other dailies — has sought bankruptcy protection in federal court. Tribune is partners with Gannett in employment website CareerBuilder and the Metromix chain of youth-focused entertainment sites.

The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription often required) has been leading coverage with its story. Other reports: The New York Times‘s DealBook blog, and the Tribune itself. Here’s Tribune’s statement.

GCI partner Tribune said girding for bankruptcy

December 8, 2008

In fresh evidence of the industry’s downward spiral, multiple reports say Tribune Co. — publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and 10 other dailies plus TV stations — is preparing to seek bankruptcy court protection.

Gannett and Tribune are partners in CareerBuilder, the big employment classifieds website; GCI owns 50.8% and Tribune is No. 2 at 30.8% (the rest is owned by McClatchy and Microsoft.) Gannett and Tribune also are partners in Metromix, a chain of youth-focused entertainment pages on GCI websites.

The Chicago Tribune now has a story, and so does The New York TimesDealBook blog. They follow a Wall Street Journal story (paid subscription may be required to access).

Tribune’s reported step toward court protection comes on a week when newspaper publishers — including CEO Craig Dubow — are making high-profile presentations to powerful media stock analysts on Wall Street.

What’s it mean for Gannett?
This is only the seventh post to include the words “bankruptcy” since I launched Gannett Blog in September 2007. I think we’re going to see more ahead. And that’s why now is an excellent time to review the company’s last earnings statement, for the third quarter, with particular attention to measures of debt.

For that, I gladly step aside to make way for the finance gals and guys on this blog to show us how it’s done — and explain it to the rest of us. Please post your replies in the comments section, below. E-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s Chicago Tribune, Newseum]

Mystery: Who are these new digital ad sales hires?

November 11, 2008

That question’s been coming up lately — most recently today, when a reader said in a comment: “Are these hybrid-looking jobs Gannett is posting a new thing? I’m talking about the positions posted for selling CareerBuilder and products that are popping up as US Community Publishing job postings.”

Based on that and other comments, it looks like Gannett is now staffing up a separate online advertising sales force assigned to some or all the newspapers. Presumably, they’ll have a different commission pay structure. The hiring would be in line with the company’s plans to sell advertising across all its newspaper websites, now that they’ve adopted the same templates.

But here’s what’s intriguing, another reader told me in an e-mail: “They don’t report to the normal boss for such ad reps, but directly to a vice president, and ultimately directly to Corporate — or so I was told by someone in advertising. They were also hired by Corporate, not through the papers.”

There have been signs of this new hiring at least as far back as Oct. 28, when newspaper division President Bob Dickey announced a 10% workforce reduction. That day, a reader said in a comment they’d heard Gannett had hired 60 new online sales specialists. Moments later, another reader replied: “Yes, it’s true. Their mission is to target advertisers that have not advertised in the last 90 days. They are outside of the normal chain of command and report directly to Corporate online.”

Maybe this separate digital sales force was always in the works? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s Detroit Free Press, Newseum. The daily is in one of Gannett’s biggest markets — an area being further decimated by the auto industry’s plunging sales. General Motors’ shares dived this morning, the Freep is now reporting]

Bulletin: Gannett laying off 10% of newspaper staff; Dickey warns in memo: ‘fiscal crisis is deepening’

October 28, 2008

Reeling from a second consecutive quarter of big revenue declines, Gannett just announced plans to lay off 10% of its newspaper employees — up to 3,000 workers — by early December, as the nation’s top newspaper publisher struggles to right itself. Newspaper division president Bob Dickey (left) disclosed the mass layoffs in a memo sent to employees just moments ago.

The unprecedented cuts follow the elimination of more than 1,000 jobs since August in GCI’s biggest and most troubled division: U.S. Community Publishing. But those cuts amounted to only 3% of the unit’s employees. Other publishers, including Miami Herald owner McClatchy Co., have sliced much deeper; that chain has exacted two rounds of 10% cuts since June alone.

The division’s 84 dailies plus USA Today account for nearly 80% of Gannett’s revenue, and 65% of its 46,000 employees. Today’s job reductions appear confined to those dailies. I don’t see any reference in the memo to cuts at GCI flagship USAT; it rivals The Arizona Republic as Gannett’s single-biggest employer.

Publishers in dark; Wall Street applauds
In Iowa, Des Moines Register Publisher Laura Hollingsworth told employees about the cuts in an e-mail, but warned she was unable to say “what that will mean in terms of number of layoffs,” the paper is now reporting. Hollingsworth is one of GCI’s most powerful publishers; she’s head of the West region of newspapers.

Investors rallied around Gannett’s shares today, after an initially tepid response. GCI’s beleaguered stock, down more than 70% from a year ago, closed at $10.22 a share, up $1.09, or 12%. Still, Wall Street had a similar reaction to the August layoffs, before sending shares back into the toilet.

Employees wonder what’s next
“Here’s a question for Mr. Dickey,” one worker said: “Do the layoffs and cutbacks stop here, or should Gannett employees keep that resume up to date and keep looking at CareerBuilder and Craigslist for job openings?” (More questions.)

Reflecting new uncertainty that could pinch productivity in weeks ahead, another employee writes: “I’m supposed to start groundwork on a big project this week, but am thinking about asking my bosses what the chances are that I’ll be able to finish it. I’d much rather spend my last few weeks on the job wrapping up some of those smaller, community-focused stories that I’ve been pushing to the back burner, instead of something that’ll never see the light of day.”

Related Gannett Blog posts

Please post your reactions in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

In new data, a stark portrait of digital’s newsroom

October 26, 2008

Two years ago this month, Gannett unveiled what it called the newsroom of the future: the Information Center, a strategic shift designed to bolster readership and advertising sales by emphasizing digital over traditional print distribution.

“Breaking news on the Web and updating for the newspaper draws more people to both those media,” CEO Craig Dubow told employees at the time. “Appealing to more and different readers helps bring us more and different advertisers.”

Now, new data show, Dubow’s Information Center strategy is failing to turn around Gannett’s biggest and most troubled business: the community newspaper division; its 84 dailies plus USA Today account for nearly 80% of revenue, and 65% of GCI’s 46,000 employees.

For the first time, Dubow is conceding that online advertising sales are now falling across those newspapers, following months of increasingly narrow gains. Online sales fell 7% in the third quarter from a year ago, Dubow told Wall Street media stock analysts in a Friday teleconference.

It was Dubow’s starkest concession that a cornerstone of his strategic plan was not delivering the goods, raising troubling questions about Gannett’s viability as the 102-year-old newspaper publisher steams into uncharted waters.

Newspaper losses accelerate
The fall in newspaper online revenue came despite higher website traffic, company documents show. Gannett captured 15.6% of the U.S. Internet audience last month, up from 15% in September 2006, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

What’s more, the online revenue decline comes as newspaper advertising losses accelerate: Ad sales plunged $210.6 million, or 18%, in the third quarter from a year ago — the single-biggest drop since sales started falling early last year.

Meanwhile, Gannett’s purely digital businesses aren’t making up the difference, other data show. Digital sales totaled $77.6 million, up from $17.2 million in last year’s third quarter. This newly created revenue category comprises jobs site CareerBuilder, ad services company PointRoll, plus other ventures.

Tweak vs. fatal flaw
The bottom line: Gannett’s profit plunged 32% in the third quarter on a 9% decline in operating revenue, shaking investor conference, and guaranteeing another round of job reductions by year’s end, Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore told the Friday teleconference.

Advocates of the Information Center model might argue that the newspaper division’s revenue losses would have been even worse without a big change in how Gannett gathers and distributes news. Rather than abandoning it, they’ve begun revising the concept.

But a mere tweaking will not address the Information Center’s fatal flaw: It was to be launched while Gannett simultaneously reduced employment in the newspaper division. Dubow didn’t make that clear in his original Information Center memo. It became obvious over the past two months, as GCI cut more than 1,000 newspaper jobs through layoffs and other means.

You cannot do this simultaneously and succeed: build an innovative digital start-up (the websites, moms microsites, Metromix, etc.) while also putting out 85 traditional daily newspapers — all at Internet speed, but with fewer employees, shoveling as much cash as possible to investors.

Gannett is now spreading the Information Center strategy to its TV stations and U.K. newspapers, even as the company plans more job cuts amid a likely global economic downturn. In Friday’s earnings statement, Dubow made clear he won’t turn away from that strategy. “While our results this quarter reflect the difficult and volatile economy both here and in the U.K., they also highlight our determination to move forward with our strategic plan,” he said.

And, yet: Is it determination — or desperation?

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: yesterday’s News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., Newseum. The paper was one of the test sites for the information center concept]