Projo lays off 23 as ad sales drop 13%; CEO remains gloomy

The Providence Journal laid off at least 23 of its roughly 460 employees this week as the paper struggles to stop a continuing decline in its circulation numbers and advertising sales.

The Journal said on its website 23 full-time workers lost their jobs Wednesday on top of the 11 who accepted a voluntary buyout in September. No reporters or columnists were laid off, and the paper said the cuts would have “minimal impact” on its news coverage. Three photographers reportedly lost their jobs.

Separately, Journal parent company A.H. Belo disclosed that the Providence paper’s total advertising revenue fell 13% compared with last year during the three months ended Sept. 30, to $10.5 million. The paper’s overall revenue rose 0.7% to $23 million as circulation and printing/distribution sales improved.

A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd told investors the Dallas-based company’s revenue picture worsened in October. “It’s been a little bit choppier in October and I couldn’t begin to tell you what will happen in November,” he said last week. “We’re definitely seeing a softer market in all three [A.H. Belo] markets – well, Providence and Dallas; Riverside is holding its own.”

“It’s just very erratic and we don’t put much of a marker on this,” Decherd said. The company’s efforts to sell The Journal’s headquarters at 75 Fountain St. are “moving along, but it just – in Providence, things go their own way and take time,” he said.

Like other newspapers, The Journal has suffered a large decrease in revenue over the last half-decade or so amid the economic downturn and the migration of readers to digital media. Annual revenue this year is on pace to rise slightly to $96.1 million, down from $166 million in 2005.

The Journal’s third-quarter advertising losses were concentrated in classifieds, which fell 19% to $3.5 million, and digital ads, which declined 16% to $1.4 million. Sales of classifieds for cars, legal notices and jobs as well as obituaries all fell, though real-estate listings increased. The company sold fewer retail ads online.

The company said its circulation revenue increased “due to a change from a buy-sell arrangement with home delivery carriers to a fee for delivery arrangement. Under this new arrangement, higher revenues are recognized which are offset by higher distribution expenses.” The Journal said it continued to win new business from other newspapers printing their editions at its facilities.

The Journal’s circulation average weekly circulation in the six-month period ended Sept. 30 fell from 90,085 to 83,733 this year, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported last week. The paper reported 4,224 subscribers to its new electronic edition.

4 thoughts on “Projo lays off 23 as ad sales drop 13%; CEO remains gloomy

  1. No reporters or columnists were laid off, and the paper said the cuts would have “minimal impact” on its news coverage.
    There is miminal news reported in the Providence Journal. When I moved here in 2000 I used to love to read the Sunday Washington Post. Coming to Rhode Island and reading the Sunday Providence Journal is like reading the Pennysaver. It has been an unsatisfying read for years.

  2. 1) Photographers ARE reporters!

    2) If WPRI added a centralized on-line obituary page, the Journal would be out of business in a year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s