The Los Angeles Times’ advertising revenue has “nearly been eliminated,” according to an internal memo from Chris Argentieri, president-Chief Operations Officer of the California Times newspaper group, which also includes the San Diego Union-Tribune and other local publications in Southern California.
“Public health guidelines related to the coronavirus have led to both unforeseen reduced revenue and unplanned expenses for our company,” he wrote. “The decline in revenue from every area of our business is unprecedented.”
Senior managers on both the editorial and business sides of the company will have reduced pay for 12 weeks, Argentieri announced. The reduction will range from 5% to 15%, depending on annual salary.
“Certain employees” on the business side will be furloughed for up to 16 weeks (or four months), without pay, but retain health-insurance benefits.
The changes will go into effect on April 19.
401(k) contributions are suspended for non-union employees until the end of the year.
When reached for comment, the L.A. Times did not specify how many employees would be impacted.
In a statement shared on Twitter, the L.A. Times Guild said union representatives plan “to meet with management soon to learn more and to urge full support for our news operations during this global emergency.”
In his memo, Argentieri expressed hope “these will be temporary measures," as the company seeks "to stabilize our operating budget and begin planning for a return to business as usual — or a modified version of it, as humankind adapts to life with COVID-19.”
Argentieri noted there are "a number of projects and initiatives underway" as the company adapts to the current situation and works to strengthen its other sources of revenue.
Last summer, the L.A. Times announced it had doubled its number of digital subscribers to 170,000 since its purchase by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong from Tribune Publishing in June 2018.
However, the goal was to double digital subscriptions again in 2019 to 300,000. As of last August, the L.A. Times had netted just 13,000 digital subscriptions for the year, due to subscriber churn.
The New York Times estimates that up to 28,000 employees of news media outlets have been laid off, furloughed or had their salaries cut since COVID-19 began spreading across the country.
Local news publishers often rely heavily on advertising from businesses in the area. With many cities on lockdown and businesses forced to keep their doors closed, advertising has scaled back considerably, badly hurting publishers.