Report: Little letup seen in media job losses

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The series of job cuts in the b-to-b media sector in the second half of 2008 will likely be followed by additional layoffs in the next several months, according to a recent study by Outsell Inc.

The job cuts are not necessarily a result of the global financial crisis but may instead represent structural changes that transcend the current economic conditions.

“The key observation is that [b-to-b] publishers haven’t been adjusting their staffing levels in step with drops in print revenue,” said Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell, who conducted the study, “2008 Market Forecast and Trends Report.”

“The companion piece is that new jobs are being created online,” he added. “Although the rate is slowing down, online revenue is still going to grow 15% this year and will have double-digit growth for the foreseeable future. So you’re also looking at bringing in new jobs online, not a wholesale loss of jobs in the industry.”

Through October Outsell tracked 937 job cuts in b-to-b media, including Nielsen Business Media (416), United Business Media and McGraw-Hill Information and Media (140).

There was another round of job cuts announced in December. UBM said it was cutting its worldwide work force by about 5%, or 350 employees, by the end of 2008. IT media company TechTarget cut 76 employees, or 12% of its work force.

On Tuesday, McGraw-Hill Cos. announced that it restructured some business operations and corporate functions in the fourth quarter of 2008. It said it cut 215 positions in its education unit, 70 in information and media, 50 in financial services, and 40 in corporate. In connection with these actions, the company incurred a pretax fourth-quarter restructuring charge of $26.3 million, consisting mostly of employee severance costs.

“Our diverse portfolio of businesses and ongoing cost-containment efforts have helped lessen the impact of challenging economic conditions in 2008,” Harold McGraw III, McGraw-Hill’s chairman and president-CEO, said in a statement.

Outsell predicts b-to-b print revenue will fall 10% this year and 7% in 2010, putting additional pressure on publishers to prune print-only staff and shift more people to Web operations.

But trying to move people who have spent their careers in print to an online role remains a significant challenge for b-to-b media companies.

“It’s a hard thing for operators to get accustomed to the transition from print to online, so they convince themselves that they need the same number of people for the Web as they do in print,” said Reed Phillips, managing director of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. “But that’s a big mistake because of all the secular changes in media.” He added that as b-to-b media companies continue to move online, “there’ll be job attrition that’ll be permanent, not cyclical.”

Sean Callahan contributed to this report.

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