Not lay offs but new lives

The Washington Post just lost a passel of talent in its latest round of buyouts. Reducing headcount on newspapers is an economic necessity today. Everybody’s doing it.

Note there’s now a blog called Papercuts tracking journalistic job cuts. So far this year alone in the U.S. alone: 2,170.

But I’d suggest doing it in a few different ways as this continues to progress across the land:

First, offer all the talented people who are leaving a weblog. Tell them you’ll sell ads on the blog and share over 50 percent of the revenue with them. They will own the blog and if they choose to start a company around it, you’ll even invest. For those who continue to write online, the paper continues to get value from the assets and brands it helped build and the writers get promotion and revenue from the paper while readers still get to read their work. Why not?

Second, I’d be redefining every job in the newsroom and giving people still there the opportunity to retrain and apply for new jobs.

  • Don’t oversimplify. Not all the talent getting cut has writing ability or journalistic know-how. Senior VPs and exec-side managers are not going to be thrilled with a severance package that included their own blog.

    Sure, these are also the people positioned to find jobs in other industries, but even canned journalists are not likely to be thrilled with “Sorry we can’t pay you any longer, but here’s an adsense account and your WordPress login.”

  • Give me six to nine months and a fair wind, and I’d love to be in a position to tell them to help themselves to a url of their choice and with the ability to source and serve their own advertising via addiply… let them give it a whirl…

  • Rick Ellis

    As a guy who recently lost his job (albeit with an online news organization), I would have to say that the “offer them a blog and ad share” idea sounds great in theory.

    But it’s also a naive idea. Hey, I’ve had my own site for a long time and my pageviews are pretty substantial. But making enough money off of ads to replace my salary is going to be nearly impossible. Expecially considering the fact that my COBRA payments alone will run me $1,200 a month.

    Nice theory, though.

  • Rick,
    One could do it in addition to the lesser-paying job that comes next. Or perhaps a paper becomes a network of independent agents are you’re the pioneer. We can’t all save yesterday today.

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  • Why not encourage these newly freed journalists to niche themselves deeply and blog with full facts and disclosure about their niche? Michael Yon is a great example of that with his reporting on Iraq – no one does it better and I think he stays in crackers quite well. Plus Jeff, as you know, niche blogging can lead to a solid audience and a book deal, as Michael Yon knows too :)

    (Does Rick Ellis have a blog? If he does, he didn’t link to it above so I can’t find him.)

  • le big z

    i see the risk that a deal like this would become an excuse for firing somebody more easily..
    “hey, let’s cut another 20 this period, we can give them all a blog”

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