Sun Media to cut 500 jobs, add more paywalls

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Quebecor has announced Sun Media will cut 500 jobs as part of a restructuring plan. Belinda Alzner reports that on top of that, more paywalls will be coming to major Sun Media publications before the end of the year.

Update Wed. Nov. 14, 11 a.m.

The list of casualties at Sun Media is long, and consists of several long-time staffers, according to an unofficial posting on Toronto Sun Family. The blog posted news of the layoffs yesterday, and the list of names has been growing since.

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Quebecor has announced Sun Media will cut 500 positions throughout its organization—including closing production facilities in Ottawa and Kingston—as well as implement more paywalls on the websites of its major Canadian publications.

The job cuts come as part of a restructuring effort that will save the company more than $45 million in annualized costs, Quebecor reported, and were made in response to the challenging market facing most newspapers. “We continue to be impacted by declining advertising revenues and soft circulation revenues in most urban and community markets,” Quebecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said on a conference call with investors Tuesday. “Given that we expect these challenging conditions to continue as a result of a pervasive industry-wide transformation, we decided to take decisive and strategic action to align our cost structure with future revenue prospects.”

Canadian Press reports that the cuts amount to roughly 10 per cent of the news media division’s workforce.

“I feel very sad for the numerous redundancies we’re forced to implement in our newspaper division,” Péladeau said. “It’s certainly something we don’t like to do but being accountable to our other thousand colleagues in the sector, our responsibility is to take measures to ensure the long-term viability of our operation.”

The company did not comment on any specifics surrounding the job cuts, though CP reports 27 journalists’ jobs will be eliminated as the company “centralizes its copy editing and pagination functions in Toronto.”

Péladeau also announced during the conference call that based on “very encouraging” early results of paywalls implemented at Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec earlier this year, the company will follow suit with the rest of its major Canadian publications before the end of the year.

Quebecor did not respond to a request for comment regarding which papers in its chain would be receiving a paywall. Sun Media operates major urban dailies and smaller community newspapers.

It is the latest Canadian company to expand its paywalls -- The Globe and Mail launched its paywall last month, Postmedia has implemented paywalls on a number of newspapers and plans to follow suit with the rest of its titles by 2013, and Toronto Star recently announced it would be doing the same.

When Sun Media appointed Eric Morrison as its vice president of editorial in September, it said he would be leading the company in a reorganization of news operations across all platforms. This was further iterated on the call with investors.

"Specifically, we redesigned completely how we manage Sun Media Corporation, abandoning the legacy publishing model for a leaner, more efficient, function-based structure built on three main pillars: content, sales, industrial operations," Péladeau said. The company has appointed three executives to head each of these. "Ultimately, this leaner structure will not only be more efficient but more importantly, will focus people on their core competencies."

Quebecor announced its quarterly earnings today, reporting $1.06 billion in revenue, up 4.4 per cent from the same quarter in 2011. Net income, however, was $0.30 per share, down from $0.41 in the same period last year.

Quebecor’s consolidated financial statement reported $31.8 million in restructuring costs, mainly for the reduction of positions, in the third quarter of 2012.

 

This story was last updated Tues. Nov 13 at 6:45 p.m.

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