Publisher: Palm Beach Post Will Be "Smaller"

New Palm Beach Publisher Doug Franklin e-mailed a memo to staff last week indicating that he was going to cut staff -- and not in a minor way. From the memo, which was posted on the Pulp in a comment below:

We are working on plans now to become a smaller company, but one that remains a necessary part of the lives of our readers. I know that you are anxious to know how we will get smaller. Obviously, this is difficult and sensitive work, and I will communicate with you as soon as we have some specifics to report.

How unsettling. A couple weeks ago we had some staffers at the Miami Herald crying at their desks and now Posties are quaking in their boots. The Sun-Sentinel has already gone through a wave of buyouts and has been tossing about in Zell-induced chaos. But the Franklin news should come as no surprise, since previous Post publisher Tom Giuffrida warned as much before he retired. Unfortunately, all of these forewarnings can only damage morale and add to stress levels before the ax falls. Not sure that's either wise or humane.

Tough times. No end yet in sight. Here's the full memo:

Folks,

Now that I’ve completed my first month here at Palm Beach Newspapers, I felt the time was appropriate to communicate with you on the state of our company. After one month of “drinking from the fire hose” to learn about our people, our market and our business, I can see a lot of challenges, but even more opportunities ahead.

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting each and every one of you. You’ve made me feel very comfortable here, and you all have been very welcoming. There is a tremendous amount of talent here at PBNI. In the past few years, you’ve demonstrated your ability to band together and successfully battle an aggressive competitor. Now, we need to channel our talent, determination and collective energy toward future successes here.

It’s no secret that the current state of the newspaper industry, coupled with South Florida’s dramatic real estate decline, has significantly impacted our company. In just two short years, we have lost 25% of our advertising revenue base — primarily in the lucrative Real Estate segment, but also in many categories that feed off a healthy market…such as employment, automobiles, furniture, and even restaurants.

I truly believe that our market — Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast — promises a prosperous long-term future for us. When the market rebounds — and it will — we need to be in a better position to capitalize on this opportunity. This will require a re-tooling of our company to be more efficient in our processes, and with a broader portfolio of products to capture new readers and website viewers.

The reality is that if we do not change, we will not operate profitably this year or beyond. We’re going to have to re-evaluate and prioritize what is most important for our audience and for our advertisers. We will have to make tough choices about where we invest in our products and throughout our operation. We are working on plans now to become a smaller company, but one that remains a necessary part of the lives of our readers. I know that you are anxious to know how we will get smaller. Obviously, this is difficult and sensitive work, and I will communicate with you as soon as we have some specifics to report. I also plan to have department employee meetings during the summer with you.

We will also be working hard to turn our revenue performance in a positive direction again. But revenue performance aside, our audience numbers are stable with 50% of the market reading us in print and online — second best in the state amongst major metro newspaper companies. Among local media companies, PalmBeachPost.com reaches the largest online audience in this market. We need to leverage this strength for more print, niche and online products to drive new revenues.

We are working on plans to fix our cost structure but we will quickly turn our attention back to growing our audiences and revenues. We plan to step in to 2009 a much stronger media company positioned to withstand the current economic challenges and begin growing our business through the strong relationships we have with our customers.

We will continue to be the leading media company in print and online in our marketplace for years to come. Thank you for your continued commitment to this company, to your colleagues, and to our readers and advertisers.

Doug

Doug Franklin

Publisher

The Palm Beach Post

Palm Beach Daily News

Florida Pennysaver

La Palma

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