Rogers cuts one-third of dig­i­tal con­tent and pub­lish­ing team.

One-third cut from pub­lish­ing, dig­i­tal con­tent

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Emily Jack­son

TORONTO • Rogers Me­dia Inc. has slashed one-third of its dig­i­tal con­tent and pub­lish­ing depart­ment, lay­ing off 75 full-time staff mem­bers from legacy ti­tles in­clud­ing Ma­clean’s and Chate­laine in the face of wide­spread chal­lenges in the print me­dia in­dus­try.

The cuts come amid stag­nat­ing profit at Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc.’s me­dia di­vi­sion, which in­creas­ingly re­lies on sports con­tent to make money as ad­ver­tis­ers spend less on tra­di­tional print and tele­vi­sion ads in favour of ads on dig­i­tal plat­forms such as Google and Facebook.

Non-sports me­dia, how­ever, has been on the chop­ping block.

In March, Rogers sold Ap­ple Inc. its stake in Tex­ture, a sub­scrip­tion mag­a­zine ser­vice, and in Jan­uary it ter­mi­nated a $100-mil­lion joint ven­ture with Vice Canada that in­cluded a pro­duc­tion stu­dio and tele­vi­sion chan­nel.

On Thursday, staff mem­bers at Rogers’ on­line and print pub­li­ca­tions were in­formed of the lat­est re­or­ga­ni­za­tion at a morn­ing meet­ing. Af­ter the lay­offs, there will be about 150 peo­ple left in the dig­i­tal con­tent and pub­lish­ing depart­ment, Rogers Me­dia spokes­woman An­drea Gold­stein said in an email.

The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion aims to make the busi­ness sus­tain­able given chal­lenges in the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, she said.

“These de­ci­sions are very dif­fi­cult. We rec­og­nize the mean­ing­ful work by our col­leagues and thank them for their con­tri­bu­tions to the busi­ness and for shar­ing their dis­tinc­tive voices with our au­di­ences.”

All of Rogers’ brands will con­tinue to op­er­ate and there will be no changes to the fre­quency of its print is­sues, she said, adding the changes “do not im­pact the qual­ity of the con­tent.”

Gold­stein would not share specifics for each pub­li­ca­tion, but sources said there are only a hand­ful of ded­i­cated staffers left at ti­tles like Cana­dian Busi­ness and Flare.

Lianne Ge­orge, the ed­i­torin-chief of Chate­laine, an­nounced her de­par­ture on Twit­ter. Ear­lier this month, she won a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award rec­og­niz­ing an editor hav­ing an “out­stand­ing im­pact.”

The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in­cludes the de­par­ture of Steve Maich, the se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of pub­lish­ing. Gold­stein said he de­cided to leave Rogers later this sum­mer to “pur­sue his true pas­sion — jour­nal­ism.”

“Through­out his ex­tra­or­di­nary 14-year ten­ure at Rogers Me­dia, Steve Maich has left an in­deli­ble mark on all those who have had the plea­sure of work­ing with him, and all the loyal read­ers who have en­joyed his writ­ing,” Rogers Me­dia pres­i­dent Rick Brace said in a state­ment.

Sarah Trim­ble, a se­nior di­rec­tor of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, will re­place Maich. She pre­vi­ously worked in mar­ket­ing at Sears Canada.

This is the lat­est in a se­ries of re­struc­tur­ing ini­tia­tives for Rogers’ print pub­li­ca­tions. In fall 2016, it dis­con­tin­ued the print edi­tion of four ti­tles — FLARE, Sport­snet, MoneySense, and Cana­dian Busi­ness — and re­duced the print fre­quency of Ma­clean’s, Chate­laine and To­day’s Par­ent. It sub­se­quently laid off 27 staff from its English-lan­guage pub­li­ca­tions and 60 peo­ple from ti­tles in Que­bec.

As its print pub­li­ca­tions strug­gle fi­nan­cially, Rogers has leaned heav­ily on sports con­tent, which has the added ben­e­fit of keep­ing con­sumers at­tached to their ca­ble TV pack­ages. Rogers is five years into a 12-year, $5.2-bil­lion deal for ex­clu­sive rights to all Na­tional Hockey League games on all plat­forms, the largest me­dia rights deal in Cana­dian his­tory

In its first-quar­ter re­sults, it said sports is the “pri­mary driver of growth” for me­dia rev­enue, which in­creased 12 per cent to $532 mil­lion in the three months end­ing Mar. 31 thanks to higher dis­tri­bu­tion to the Toronto Blue Jays from Ma­jor League Base­ball.

But the me­dia di­vi­sion’s an­nual ad­justed profit is fall­ing. It dropped to $139 mil­lion in 2017, down from $169 mil­lion in 2016 and $172 mil­lion in 2015. On con­fer­ence calls with an­a­lysts, the me­dia di­vi­sion gets lit­tle air­time given it ac­counts for less than two per cent the wire­less, in­ter­net, tele­vi­sion and tele­phone com­pany’s over­all profit.

In an in­ter­view in April, Rogers chief ex­ec­u­tive Joe Natale was bullish on sports and lo­cal ra­dio, but less cer­tain on print. “We have to rein­vent the pub­lish­ing busi­ness for the dig­i­tal age. We haven’t done enough to do that,” Natale said.

“We’re go­ing to take our best crack at it.”



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