When a company cuts jobs, it shouldn’t spin that reality with corporate bullshit

time_magazine_-_first_cover

Time magazine’s first cover

The owner of the grandparent of weekly news magazines, Time, has decided to shed 300 jobs through layoffs and buyouts to reduce its costs.

A media corporation whacking jobs to save money? That’s not surprising news in the digital era. But what continues to aggravate and irritate is the lame corporate-speak executives use to explain the “downsizing” and to insist better, more profitable days lie in the future.

Consider remarks in a memo to staff from Time Inc.’s chief executive officer, Rich Battista:

[O]ne of the key components of our go-forward strategy is reengineering our cost structure to become more efficient and to reinvest resources in our growth areas as we position the company for long-term success. Today we took a difficult but necessary step in that plan as approximately 300 of our colleagues throughout Time Inc.’s global operation will be leaving the company. …

Time Inc. is a company in rapid transformation in an industry undergoing dynamic change. Transformations do take time and patience, but I am encouraged by the demonstrable progress we are making as we implement our strategy in key growth areas, such as video, native advertising and brand extensions, and as we see positive signs of stabilizing our print business, which remains an important part of our company. [emphasis added]

Somewhere in the business universe there must be a place where CEOs are taught to obfuscate in such Orwellian language. Find it and yank it out by its roots.

Time Inc.’s future, given that it rejected a $1.8 billion offer for the company, may indeed lie somewhere in its rapid transformation as it implements its strategy in key growth areas. Time Inc. eventually may part itself out by selling titles such as Sports Illustrated, People and Time. Maybe it will reinvent itself while reengineering its cost structure.

It’s a difficult time for publishers, particularly for news weeklies. Newsweek has faded to a clickbait operation. Time magazine’s circulation has fallen more than 20 percent from 2003 to 2013 from 4.1 million to 3.2 million. Meanwhile, its average number of ad pages fell by nearly half. Deserting news weeklies like Time were the auto, food and beverage, and financial and real estate industries. Time Inc.’s stock price has declined to $14.

New York Times media writer Sydney Ember observes:

Print advertising and circulation revenues continue to fall, starving magazine companies of the lifeblood that long sustained them. Most publishers have shifted their focus to increasing nonprint revenue, but new revenue sources have yet to make up the shortfall. To compensate, publishers continue to slash costs, transforming themselves into leaner companies with fewer employees and diminished resources. [emphasis added]

That’s been a common theme for the news and information industries for more than 20 years. Ember’s direct language contrasts with Battista’s executive spin. (By the way, will Battista’s $5,766,870 in total compensation take a hit, as 300 people take theirs?)

Still, despite slumping readership, circulation, and advertising across its titles, Battista remains an optimist.

“This is a great company,” Battista told Ember. “We think there’s tremendous untapped potential, and we’re just scratching the surface.” [emphasis added]

Time Inc. will be scratching that surface in its go-forward strategy with 300 fewer people. But the bullshit will remain.

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