ACP and PBL might be telling the media there’s no cost cutting going on, but internally there are significant structural changes still going in personnel in all areas that the process resembles the now infamous duck (if it quacks, if it waddles, its a duck!).
Unexplained job losses among senior staff can be power struggles gone sour, but they can represent selective lopping of high cost people to make small but important savings in budgets.
Take the latest from within the ACP magazine business. Reports today say the highly-respected and well-liked Carolyn Lockhart is leaving ACP just as she has been inducted into the Food Hall of Fame by the current Sydney magazine for the excellent and ground-breaking work she did first as editor of Vogue Entertaining and then ACP’s Gourmet Traveller.
Both magazines were the best in their fields when ‘Charlie’ Lockhart was running them. But then John Alexander got involved and dumped her from Gourmet – which is still trying to find its way back under the former Fairfax lifestyle hackette, Anthea Loucas.
Embarrassing for Alexander is that he flicked someone the industry recognises as a good operator and helpful, unlike himself. He fancies himself as the last word in style in practically every field. readers of the recent profile in the Fairfax’ goodweekend would have got a strong flavour of just how much he fancies himself.
Now the official line is that Ms Lockhart is retiring after running the Qantas magazine – but there had been rumours around Park Street that she had just wanted to reduce her hours, something the management clearly doesn’t want for fear of setting a precedent.
This is a potted CV from a recent food industry judging panel:
“Carolyn Lockhart began her career in the food, wine and travel media at Condé Nast where she was Editor of Vogue Entertaining Guide. In 1990 she joined ACP as Editor of Australian Gourmet Traveller and Editor-in-Chief of The Wine Magazine. Carolyn is currently the Editor of the Qantas Magazine, a joint venture with ACP and Qantas.”
There’s already been speculation about the departure of an ACP women’s group veteran in Louise Upton who has been flicked from Belle, which is a circulation-challenged ACP bi-monthly design magazine appealing the status and style conscious home owners and buyer consumer (see the Mag shop website).
It has suffered from weak circulation in the past year of so, but the furtive manner of Upton’s departure, here one day, gone the next after 16 years service, has set tongues a’wagging at Park Street.
It came after the fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar, ACP’s largest magazine in terms of page numbers, was ‘resigned’ a few weeks ago, again without any explanation.
This on top of changes in management reporting structures in the production area, the move of Network Services, the distribution management arm, to new offices and with a new computer system, and now this is announcement late last week.
“In line with the development of new production and editorial software, changes have been made to the operational structure of the department to fully exploit the advantages that the resources will bring to ACP.
“Peter Woodward has joined ACP from Murdoch Magazines as Production Manager; Peter’s role will encompass the daily running of the production department and the daily print management of all titles based out of the Sydney office. Peter is the point of escalation for any production issues not handled by the Production Controllers.
“Greg Lyons, who also joins ACP from Murdoch Mags, in the newly created role of Technical and Quality Control Manager. Greg will manage and review the print quality of all titles, control and deal with client quality complaints and assist in the technical development of print. He is the nominated person that should be contacted if there are issues concerning quality.”
These two appointments follow the loss of senior production managers to Murdoch (so it’s a bit of ‘tit for tat’ hiring) and other publishers.
The memo continued “Dione Darney has been promoted the role of Deputy Production Manager- Magazines. Dione is directly responsible for the Ad Production team and will work closely on the development of production’s IT requirements. Dione is the point of escalation with any matters relating to Quick Cut and advertising material problems.
“Carol Currie moves into the role of Deputy Production Manager – Books and Special Projects. Carol’s role is to focus on servicing Custom Media and the Books division. Rebecca Finau has taken on the role of Paper Manager and is responsible for the management of the paper purchasing and logistics team. The above team adds solid support and experience to our team of production controllers and advertising production co-ordinators.
“The production controllers are responsible for servicing the production needs of their nominated titles. Progressive changes in their workflow will allow each production controller time to contribute more to the changing need of their editorial, advertising and marketing teams. Our advertising production co-ordinators are responsible for the chasing and co-ordination of advertising material. Developments with quick-cut and the editorial software will improve the workflow of their role and integrate with the editorial workflow.”
(This refers to new advertising and editorial IT platforms that are being introduced. A new subscription system from Advantage of the US, the largest integrator and publisher of subscription management systems in the US. They recently installed a similar, but much larger system in the US for TV Guide part of News Corp.
But as always in lengthy management memos, the nitty gritty is at the end, and this one is no difference. Here come the cost savings.
“Given these changes in the advertising co-ordination area, it has been necessary to move the roles currently in Melbourne to Sydney to be more hands on with the magazines that have already moved to Sydney.
“Commencing this week, the Motoring titles, which are co-ordinated out of Melbourne, will move responsibility to Sydney, by week commencing the 6 October, this transition will be complete.”
And anybody who doesn’t want to change becomes a cost saving! There’s expansion to, as this announcement about the UK shows –
ACP enters joint UK magazine venture – and that’s the message ACP management is putting out for public consumption. But internally its a different story with much turmoil and lots rumours and talk.
This, at a time after the midweek review produced differing pay rises and executives, such as the editors and group publishers received their annual bonuses.
The PBL annual report disclosed John Alexander as being paid a bonus of $2 million for the year to June, while his ACP deputy, David Gardiner received a smaller, but nevertheless juicy $250,000.