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Recession Red: Media Industry Jobs Slashed

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 12, 2009 at 7:32AM

When I run into my fellow journos on the town, they look at me with palpable anxiety. I'm a reminder of their worst fear: losing their staff jobs. (The ranks of media freelancers are expanding rapidly.) And many of the people I'm talking about are stars, writers who by any measure are hard-working and successful. Some are veterans who expected to finish out their careers at their paper, others are young rising careerists. All are scared.
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When I run into my fellow journos on the town, they look at me with palpable anxiety. I'm a reminder of their worst fear: losing their staff jobs. (The ranks of media freelancers are expanding rapidly.) And many of the people I'm talking about are stars, writers who by any measure are hard-working and successful. Some are veterans who expected to finish out their careers at their paper, others are young rising careerists. All are scared.

At Entertainment Weekly's party at the Sunset Tower (where Vanity Fair is throwing its Oscar party this year) to celebrate Jess Cagle's new gig as editor, the conversation surrounding attendees Jeffrey Katzenberg, Oscar producer Laurence Mark, Iron Man director Jon Favreau, producer Scott Stuber and his former partner, MGM's Mary Parent, PR folks and staffers from EW, was about how the economy was going to effect them. In a declining ad market, EW isn't immune to more layoffs either.

What is the future for magazines, when even film students at USC don't read EW? The magazine has always relentlessly chased young readers; I'd like to see it embrace a more sophisticated approach to its aging culture-vulture demo, at least in print. Cagle, who worked at EW when I was there in the 90s, spent years at People, one of the few mags with a rising circulation, so he knows a thing or two about pulling in readers.

Newsweek is giving up on trying to chase news in a print weekly. The paper is lowering its circulation base and going after charging more for its core aging readership:


Thirteen months ago, Newsweek lowered its rate base, the circulation promised to advertisers, to 2.6 million from 3.1 million, and Mr. Ascheim said that would drop to 1.9 million in July, and to 1.5 million next January.
He says the magazine has a core of 1.2 million subscribers who are its best-educated, most avid consumers of news, and who have higher incomes than the average reader.
“We would like to build our business around these people and grow that group slightly,” he said. “These are our best customers. They are our best renewers, and they pay the most.”
In the first half of 2008, the average Newsweek subscriber paid less than $25 a year, or 47 cents for each copy — less than one-tenth the $4.95 newsstand price. Newsweek wants to raise that average to $50 a year, Mr. Ascheim said, adding, “If you can’t get people to pay for what they love, we’re all out of business.”


Meanwhile, more layoffs are hitting the Chicago Tribune. Over the past year, reports Ad Age, the advertising and media industry represents a hefty percentage of all layoffs nationwide. The industry cut staff by 3.9%, or 65,100 jobs, since the recession began in December 2007. The areas that have expanded: marketing consultants, PR firms, online search, cable TV and internet media.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

This article is related to: Media, Cash Crunch


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.