Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What would you do?

Could you handle a 13% pay cut?
Could you pay your bills? Support the folks who depend upon you?

American Business Media's Business Information Network released figures today showing that B2B publishers saw their advertising revenue fall 13.1 percent in the fourth quarter, essentially giving B2B magazines a 13 percent "pay" cut.

Certainly those publishers with subscription, data or exhibition revenue didn't see such a dramatic decline. But for the sake of argument, let's just use that 13 percent figure as a benchmark.
So what would you do if your pay was cut 13 percent?
Do you have debt? Would you try to renegotiate? Default?Most B2B publishers have quite a bit of debt. And they're finding their bankers are less than patient these days.
Do you have anything to sell? A second car that you don't really need? Perhaps an investment? Some old LPs? Many B2B publishers are finding that the market doesn't assign much value to what they own. Buyers are hard to find and financing for purchases is hard to come by.
Are there things you love to do, but you know you can do without them? Would you still go to the movies and the ballgame? Would you keep that membership to your local chapter of the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons? Publishers are cutting back on memberships, meetings and business "fun."
Do you have anyone working for you? A housekeeper? Babysitter? Someone who trims the grass? Would you keep them on? Would you let them go? B2B publishers know that their biggest expense is labor. So they're cutting staff. And they're hoping that, in the end, they will have cut the "right" people and saved the ones they truly need.
Would you hope that your pay would rise soon? Would you borrow in anticipation of that future pay hike? B2B publishers, like much of America, have found that the banks and the credit markets aren't as friendly as they once were.

So what would you do?
What would you do if it were your paycheck? Or your company?

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Penton confirms layoffs

Just a quick update to yesterday's post about Penton ... the company has confirmed to Folio magazine that it has laid off people at three of its magazines.

A spokesperson for Penton declined to say how many people lost their jobs.

You can read the details here.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quiet please! People being laid off

An anonymous reader of this blog added a comment to a recent post last night that said there had been layoffs at Penton. I started to respond via comment, but opted instead to write a new post.
I don't know if more layoffs are planned at Penton ... but I would be surprised to find otherwise.
There have apparently been a number of layoffs at Penton in recent weeks. But I do not have a good sense of the numbers involved. I also know that in at least one location the company is revamping its processes and workflows to make a long overdue shift to a Web-first publishing model.
I'm not involved in these changes at Penton. Penton has been a client of mine in the past. But I'm not working with them at present.
Nonetheless, I understand the need for the changes at Penton and would, in all likelihood, support a plan to cut costs by reducing the size of the workforce. At the same time, it would be disingenuous for me to suggest that I thought the cuts and changes would actually save Penton. I have no faith that a company that has a debt load the size of Penton's and is dependent on a troubled business model for cash flow, can ride out the economic downturn.
In other words, if there were buyers available, I'm sure the company would be sold. But with nary a suitor in site, Penton has little recourse other than to hang on for dear life -- by cutting costs, selling brands on the rare occasion when a buyer surfaces, renegotiating debt payments over and over and over again, all while trying to convert the company into a collection of brands that can survive (or be sold) when the economy turns around.

No announcements
The company, however, has opted not to make formal announcements about the layoffs, etc. I don't think that's the wisest move. You probably don't either. As you know, the morale situation at the company is really quite awful. I get an email, comment or tweet every day now in which someone complains about the situation at Penton.
On the other hand, awful morale is the norm across all of publishing right now. Penton isn't alone in that.
The real problem for Penton is that the lack of transparency about the layoffs and changes is making it impossible for folks to feel committed to implementing change.
The company is losing some of the key people it needs to orchestrate the changes. On Friday I had a very interesting email exchange with someone I think of as among the most talented people at the company. But Friday was her last day. She'd grown disheartened and had taken another job.
I offer my sympathy to everyone at Penton and elsewhere in the media world. These are very difficult times. I understand the anxiety. Many of us have lost jobs. Many more of us will.
But for those of us who are interested, there is a tremendous future for B2B publishing. It won't look like the industry we're familiar with. Many of the companies we work for today won't survive long enough to see that future.
But if B2B journalism is your calling, then I would urge you to hang on.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The most meaningful award in B2B

Congratulations to Jim Prevor, the founder and editor-in-chief of Produce Business magazine. Jim is this year's winner of the "Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity" from American Business Media.

Longtime readers of this blog know I've said the Timothy White contest represents "
the most important award in B2B journalism." And in a brief email exchange yesterday, Jim said it is "the award I consider most meaningful in the whole industry."

For more about Jim, check out his blog, PerishablePundit, or read an earlier post of mine in which I share some of Jim's thoughts on ethics.

ABM's announcement of the award can be found near the bottom of this email newsletter.

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