Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Downsizing and getting the finger in a bad economy

It was a long day at The Californian today where we experienced our second round of layoffs in the past four months. It’s a given that the economy is bad, and news of layoffs are almost commonplace these days. Consultants tell us to call it a “reduction in force,” but it’s a layoff to those who leave the building with a cardboard box holding their personal belongings. They are disruptive and painful, but a necessary tool for companies that confront the simple fact that when expenses exceed revenue, you lose money. Mature industries, like newspapers, are particularly vulnerable in this economy. The real culprit is not people abandoning us for the internet, but rather a heavy fisted economy that has our advertisers reeling. Newspapers have always been an economic barometer of sorts: when people stop buying cars and new homes and shopping at Home Depot to spruce up the nest, advertisers curtail their spending and we have a bad day. If Realtors get a cold, we get the flu. None of this of course is any comfort to the people who lose their jobs, who often have families and mortgages and bills to pay. And I can’t really blame the former employee who spotted me on the street today and gave me the angry finger. So going forward? I spotted this bit of advice on a media blog and thought it relevant:

“The first step in managing uncertainty is to admit its influence. In the context of business, particularly in a mature industry, this means preparing for a wide range of outcomes, including the very real possibility that revenue will shrink, not grow. Chaos can be traumatic for the unimaginative, but abandoning the center of gravity can be a lifesaver.”

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