Bad News at Vancouver’s Sun and Province

The Vancouver Sun memo | BCBusiness

Staff layoffs and buyouts loom as Vancouver’s century-old dailies are “fighting not only for the future of the Vancouver Sun and the Province but for the lives and well-being of our families”

The staff at Vancouver’s two daily papers digested a direct and frank management memo warning of drastic cuts and cost reductions without which “the business is unsustainable.”

The grim reality check comes amidst a disturbing 48 hours for the North American newspaper industry. A day before the announcement at the Postmedia-owned Vancouver papers, The Globe and Mail offered voluntary separation agreements to staff to expedite its move into digital news, focusing on its website and mobile phone products and shore up the continued print advertising slump which makes up the majority of most newspapers’ revenues. Earlier today, The New York Times, the biggest and most digitally forward-looking North American daily, announced that print advertising revenue was down another 13.3 per cent last quarter after years of decline. Perhaps more alarming was that the much-heralded digital-first strategy of so many newspapers world-wide and the one spear-headed by the Times, resulted in a four per cent loss in the last quarter. Overall digital revenue at the Times stands at 24 percent of all revenue.

Gordon Fisher, who was promoted to President and Publisher of Postmedia’s Pacific Newspaper Group at the end of January, didn’t sugarcoat his dire warning to staff, citing the drastic cost-cutting to “unprecedented revenue declines.” Although the memo didn’t specify it outright, both newspapers are likely to begin sharing resources to shore up losses. Mirroring an industry trend of falling print advertising and subscriptions, parent company Postmedia suffered a $14-million loss in its most recent quarter. According to company records, less than a third of Postmedia’s revenue is digital, with the rest of revenue coming from sinking print advertising.

Fisher noted in the staff memo that print revenue fell an alarming 16 per cent in 2013 to date. The communiqué to staff, he noted, was a result of those losses not improving anytime soon. His request for sacrifice and doing more with less was peppered throughout the announcement. “If you aren’t part of the solution, ask yourself why that is,” he wrote. “We are all fighting not only for the future of the Vancouver Sun and the Province but for the lives and well-being of our families.”

Download a PDF of the complete memo.