Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday's Full Basket

It's a pretty random, but important, collection of items in our basket on Tuesday morning...

OH, AND BY THE WAY, THE PD: The news of the impending end of another American newspaper had everyone buzzing Monday, including your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm).

Oh, by the way, employees of the Northeast Ohio sister paper of the Ann Arbor News took a budget hit Monday as well.

Shortly after we took ourselves out of the media news stream to attend to Real Life, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced its own latest moves designed to save parent Advance Publications some money. Quoting the item posted by the PD's Michelle Jarboe:

The Plain Dealer will require non-union employees to take pay cuts and 10-day furloughs, in an attempt to cut costs but preserve jobs and continue to print seven days a week.

During meetings with employees Monday, Publisher and President Terrance C. Z. Egger announced that full-time, non-union employees must take 10 days of unpaid leave between April 20 and Oct. 4.

Full-time and part-time non-union employees will see their first $50,000 of pay cut by 8 percent and any additional pay reduced by 10 percent as of June 1.

The Monday article says about 370 employees will be affected by the furlough order, and 450 will be hit by the pay cuts. It also details other budget-related moves by Advance-owned papers elsewhere.

The pay cuts and furloughs mirror a trend that other big media companies have started. Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3 owner Gannett (a big newspaper owner) is one such company, as we've reported before.

We'll assume that at some point, the companies realize that you can't run a newspaper with a handful of people...so the only remaining choice is giving workers less money one way or the other. Or....well, you have to join the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and now the Ann Arbor News in basically throwing in the towel on daily newspapering.

And PD publisher Terrance Egger tells his paper that the Cleveland paper isn't headed in that direction:

Egger said The Plain Dealer is committed to protecting as many jobs as possible while curbing expenses. The company will continue to print a newspaper seven days a week, even as some other large newspapers reduce their printing schedules or switch to a Web-only product, he said.

"We want to be in it for the long haul," Egger told employees. "I don't see a way for all of us to get there without making some sacrifices."

But the short haul is looking awful for all newspapers, including the PD - which says it saw ad revenues fall "twice as much as expected" as it nears the end of 2009's first quarter.

The Plain Dealer may "want to be in it for the long haul", but is printing a newspaper seven days a week a viable model for anyone in 2009? The PD made money in 2008, Egger said, and hoped to make money in 2009...but that last piece of news makes that seem like a far off target.

We also got some comments on our "off the cuff" analysis of the Ann Arbor and Michigan situation vs. Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. One reader points out that Cleveland's most recent unemployment rate is more than Ann Arbor, which is traditionally more insulated economically due to the presence of the University of That Team Which Can't Beat Ohio State...er...Michigan.

Point well taken. It's also one reason Columbus hangs in there vs. Cleveland.

But the overall Michigan economy is awful. And those other Booth/Advance papers named are in that state's hardest hit markets - such as Flint, which has basically been falling apart economically since the 1980's.

What brought in "AnnArbor.com" as an option for Advance is likely that "college city" atmosphere...with the U of M influence making it a more connected, more intelligent city that would be a good laboratory for the Website Which Replaces Newspaper experiment...

IT'S BACK: A note in Monday's Inside Radio sent us scurrying to FCC records, and sure enough, Cleveland market top 40 outlet WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM" is officially back in the Clear Channel fold again.

And all of this, without a single piece of equipment moving anywhere.

Of course, Clear Channel tabbed WAKS to the Aloha Station Trust in the process of its sale to two private equity firms. The sale triggered FCC local ownership guidelines, and at least technically revoked Clear Channel's grandfathered ability to operate stations like WAKS - which put the company over the ownership cap in the Cleveland market.

Ah, but since it's WAKS/*Akron*, Clear Channel was able to trigger a simple bit of shuffling that attributed 96.5, ownership limit wise, into the Akron Arbitron market. That allows the company to keep the station, and even allows it to continue operating it out of the Clear Channel Cleveland cluster on Oak Tree.

Again, without moving a single piece of equipment or changing studios...as "Kiss FM" never moved from Oak Tree, and was operated by Clear Channel even under the Aloha Trust ownership.

FCC records show the "reassignment" of WAKS to Clear Channel was approved a week ago, on March 17...

COX RADIO GOING PRIVATE: We hadn't mentioned that Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises is making a nearly $70 million bid to absorb its own Cox Radio division to make it private.

Cox, of course, was founded in Dayton, where it owns four radio stations - including the WHIO/1290-WHIO-FM/95.7 simulcast - and the Dayton Daily News...the first link in the Cox empire...

LOOKING FOR A MARKET MANAGER JOB?: We stumbled onto an ad placed in that same Monday edition of Inside Radio, with two Ohio Clear Channel clusters looking for a new leader:

Ashland/Mansfield dual market cluster - 6 FM-1 triplecast/2 AM
Lima/Marion dual market of 7FM/2 AM

Clear Channel Radio seeks experienced management professionals to assume the role of VP/Market Manager for each dual market. The ideal candidate should have previous market manager experience and a proven track record of ratings and revenue success. DOS’s and Operation Managers wanting career growth are encouraged to apply. Candidates should have a minimum of 5-7 years radio experience with a minimum of 2 years in management. College degree preferred.

We'll save her from spambots, but you can apply for this one by E-mailing one Melissa Burns at a standard Clear Channel address with a cover letter and resume. And, yes, "no phone calls, please!"...

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