We know that things change very quickly in these days of digital media, but The Wall Street Journal seems to be remaking itself at lightning speed. And with a new strategy will come job losses — a lesson, perhaps, for The Australian.
The message from three memos last week from Dow Jones head William Lewis and two from the paper’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, raise questions as to the timing of the revamp (10 days ahead of the announcement of first-quarter financials) and why they are happening at a paper the company lauded for its solid performance in 2015-16.
In fact in the 2015-16 annual results released in August, News Corp revealed The Wall Street Journal had boosted circulation by a handy 6.5%, which in these days of falling sales (according to figures from News Corp) was outstanding.
But all that was clearly annual results puffing because in memos last week, staff learnt that performance was not good enough. According to a memo from Baker, the WSJ‘s “ SJ2020” plan will look to rebalance the news organisation’s revenue streams, and a reworked version of the print newspaper will be launched in the next few weeks with some sections consolidated.
The second memo from Baker on Friday to all staff around the world contained the bad news, revealing that the company was looking for a “substantial number of employees” to accept buyouts of their contracts (another way of saying voluntary redundancy). And Baker made it clear that forced redundancies would be sought if the number of voluntary departures fell short. The cuts will be larger than the less than 30 jobs lost in the middle of 2015 in the most recent revamp.
All this makes you wonder what went wrong at the Journal since the end of the financial year and sat the end of the first quarter, September 30. Perhaps we will be told in the quarterly report due out on November 8 (Australian time), but don’t hold your breath. But there is an obvious message for the rest of the News Corp papers, especially in Australia.
The loss-making Australian would look like the paper most at risk, especially now Chris Mitchell, the paper’s Great Defender, has gone as editor-in-chief. — Glenn Dyer