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Standard among six Postmedia papers to close

 Postmedia Network

The Strathmore Standard is among six community newspapers Postmedia Network Inc. plans to close, while also cancelling print editions at several more and offer buyouts to staff in a bid to further cut legacy costs before its fiscal year end.

 

Canada’s largest newspaper publisher announced in an internal memo Tuesday that it will close unprofitable titles and reduce salary expenses by 10 per cent by Aug. 31. The salary reduction will come from a mix of layoffs and voluntary buyout packages, which will be offered to all unionized and editorial staff.

The Standard's final edition will be July 25, it started publishing in 1909.

The announcement comes as the traditional media industry, including newspapers, television and radio, grapples with declining advertising budgets as audiences shift online and advertisers spend more with platforms like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc.

The memo from chief executive Paul Godfrey and chief operating officer Andrew MacLeod lauded double-digit growth in digital advertising revenue in recent quarters, but said further cost cutting is needed to reflect declines in print advertising and subscription revenue.

“In spite of the great traction coming from our new strategies, the reality we must face is that the traditional revenue balloon continues to deflate at a much faster rate than we can inflate the digital revenue balloon,” the memo stated.

“If we intend to survive and create a new model for the new reality, then we must continue to take the necessary steps to focus on areas where we can win and make the tough, yet decisive, decisions about where we need to make changes.”

Postmedia will shut down the Standard and Camrose Canadian in Alberta and the Kapuskasing Northern Times, Ingersoll Times, Norwich Gazette and Petrolia Topic in Ontario. Local staff were informed Tuesday that the titles will close in the coming weeks. The closures will result in 16 job losses in sales, distribution and editorial, according to Postmedia spokeswoman Phyllise Gelfand.

It will stop printing The Graphic in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, and the Northern News in Kirkland Lake and Pembroke Observer in Ontario. These publications will retain a digital presence. In Alberta, the High River Times will be published weekly instead of biweekly.

Postmedia will continue to operate weekly newspapers Herald Leader in Portage La Prairie, Man. and Pembroke News in Pembroke, Ont.

Godfrey and MacLeod were not available for interviews. But in the memo they noted Postmedia is not alone in reducing staff. Earlier this month, Rogers Media laid off one third of its publishing department, reducing its headcount by 75 people.

This is the second time in two years Postmedia offered a major round of buyouts. In October 2016, it announced plans to reduce its salary expenses by 20 per cent. By the end of that fiscal year, it had 3,315 employees, down by 918 from 4,233 as of Aug. 31, 2016.

It’s the second time in a year that Postmedia announced numerous community newspaper closures. In November 2017, Postmedia and its largest competitor, Torstar Corp., announced plans to swap 41 titles and subsequently close 36 of them. The Competition Bureau is investigating that transaction.  



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