The new normal for magazines: Clean cuts and messy workloads

In the past week, we’ve seen several publishers use these clean-sounding euphemisms to describe their editorial plans going forward.

But editors know that the messy translation of these words means two things:

(a) They are going to make painful staff cuts, and

(b) Those who survive the winnowing will be taking on more work.

Hearst Magazines began the week by announcing they would combine the editorial departments for its design group, which includes shelter titles HOUSE BEAUTIFUL*, VERANDA* and ELLE DÉCOR*.  House Beautiful Editor-in-Chief Newell Turner was plucked from his post to fill the newly created position of Design Group Editor-in-Chief.

Hearst president David Carey said that “integration” would begin immediately, with the new group structure in place by mid-October.  True to his word, by the end of the week the job cuts had begun, with Elle Décor executive editor Vicky Lowry one of the first casualties as her position was eliminated.  It’s estimated a dozen jobs in the group will disappear by year’s end.

CONSUMER REPORTS* also started the week by putting out the news that they would be undergoing “restructuring.”  That same day, editorial director Kevin McKean was let go after seven years, and his position cut.

Publisher Conde Nast (VOGUE*, WIRED*, BON APPETIT*) this week asked all of its magazine titles to cut an additional 5% from their budgets for 2013.  Reportedly, many of the company’s units already were leaving vacant editorial positions unfilled to save money.

None of this is new, and it’s part of an ongoing trend as print magazines try to adapt in a changing media environment.

But if the trend is clear, so are the consequences.

Last month’s editorial salary survey from FOLIO:* magazine also contained feedback from editors on workload and job satisfaction.  Across the board, editors reported being overworked, short on resources and lacking support.

Judging by the survey respondents, at a time when editors have more diverse responsibilities than ever before—digital oversight, business planning, event programming—they must do it with diminished budgets and stagnant salaries.

And now, dwindling staffs.

Is it any wonder print magazines are in trouble?


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