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Job cuts at Prism Business Media are the downside of reorganization

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The 56 job cuts recently announced by Prism Business Media reflect the ongoing upheaval that b-to-b media companies are going through as customers increasingly shift their ad dollars to a variety of marketing platforms rather than just the printed page.

Prism said last week that it plans to cut 56 jobs by the end of the year from its “shared services” staff as part of a continuing restructuring effort. The majority of cuts will be from the production, finance and audience marketing groups, and will mostly affect the company’s offices in Overland Park, Kan., and Indianapolis. Sales and editorial will not be affected, according to the company.

John French, president-CEO of Prism, said the cuts are in line with larger trends that are affecting business publishers.

“The back office has to be as tight and efficient as possible so we can ramp up investments on the product side,” he said. “Five, 10 years ago, b-to-b companies were heavy on shared services. But people don’t buy just magazine pages anymore. They want sponsorships, a booth at a trade show, links to blogs or online video.”

The 56 job cuts are on top of previous layoffs at Prism. Two weeks ago, the company laid off five employees from its Stamford, Conn., marketing office. It also shuttered Grounds Maintenance with the October issue, resulting in the loss of several other jobs. The planned cuts will leave Prism with about 900 employees. French would not rule out additional layoffs, but said none were planned.

Prism was created last December when investment banker Wasserstein & Co. purchased the b-to-b assets of Primedia Inc.

Prism has spent the last year building its portfolio both organically and through acquisitions. Late last month, for example, it acquired SpeedNews, an information source for executives in the aviation industry. SpeedNews publishes multiple newsletters, which will enable Prism to bolt on some of the information to its existing aviation properties such as The Aircraft Bluebook and The Executive Traveler Edition.

In August, Prism’s Beef magazine launched AmericanCowman.com, a Web site dedicated to the needs of smaller beef operations. And in June, it acquired the assets of Transportation Technical Services, a trucking industry data source. “Any property that’s data-driven becomes more of priority,” French said.

The company has also doubled the size of its online staff to 46.

The job cuts and additions reflect the impact of the Web, said Mark Edmiston, managing director of media investment bank AdMedia Partners. “There are almost too many dollars flowing into the Internet right now, and [b-to-b companies] have to manage the short term if they want to make it in the long term,” he said.

As print declines and electronic options rise, Edmiston said, b-to-b publishers will have to strike the right balance in their payrolls to manage the transformation. He predicted that in the months ahead, other media companies will experience “some version” of the job cuts that Prism has been making.

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