Red Ink: 'U.S. News' Goes Monthly, Hearst and Rodale Cut Staff

U.S.News and World ReportIn another testament to the rapidly declining fortunes of consumer magazines, U.S. News & World Report is switching to monthly distribution, according to The Washington Post Web site, which reported the news late Tuesday.

This is the second time in less than a year that U.S. News & World Report has scaled back its frequency. In June, the magazine announced that it was switching from weekly to biweekly publication. Meanwhile, Hearst and Rodale are both cutting staff, following the lead of Time Inc. and Conde Nast.

The second schedule change is part of a broader strategy by publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman to shift the struggling print magazine's focus from breaking news and current events to more rankings and consumer resources--like its popular listings of best colleges, grad schools, and hospitals. Its Web site will continue to report on other news, although it's unclear how many print staffers will make the transition to online publishing, and how many will be let go.

The news comes a week after Conde Nast said it was cutting back the publication schedules of Portfolio and Men's Vogue to 10 times a year and twice a year, respectively.

Also this year, media trade publication Adweek reduced its frequency from 47 to 36 issues per year. But contracting frequencies are the least of magazine problems nowadays. 2008 has also seen the closing of several big titles, including Hearst's CosmoGirl and Quick & Simple, Hachette Filipacchi's Home, and Conde Nast's Golf for Women.

The big publishers are also cutting scores of positions, with the latest rounds including lots of layoffs. The newest cuts are at Hearst, which appears to implementing layoffs across its magazine and newspaper properties. In retrospect, plans for cutbacks have been at the root of the conflict between former President and CEO Victor F. Ganzi and Hearst's board of trustees, which led to Ganzi stepping down in June--citing "only irreconcilable policy differences with the Board of Trustees about the future direction of the company."

On Monday, Rodale, the publisher of Men's Health and Best Life, said it is cutting 10% of its work force, including 111 layoffs across the company. The news highlights the dire condition of the magazine industry, as Rodale is currently faring best among the top magazine publishers. According to TNS Media Intelligence, Rodale's total ad pages are down just 3% compared to 9.1% at Conde Nast, 9.3% at Time Inc., and 17% at Meredith Corp.

Last week, Time Inc., the world's largest magazine publishing company, planned a restructuring that could lead to as many as 600 job cuts, or about 6% of its work force. The week before, Time Inc.'s Southern Progress Corp.--which publishes titles like Southern Living and Cooking Light--said it had laid off 30 employees or about 3% of the unit's work force, with the cuts coming mostly at its ailing print operations.

Also last week, McGraw-Hill said it would cut 270 positions across the company--including 140 jobs at the Information and Media unit, which produces BusinessWeek, along with other B2B publications. McGraw Hill did not specify how many of these cuts would affect BusinessWeek.

On Oct. 13, Mansueto Ventures, the publisher of Fast Company and Inc., announced that it was cutting 20 jobs to trim costs. American Express Publishing cut 22 jobs. And on Oct. 16, Playboy Enterprises announced that it would cut 55 employees and get rid of 25 unfilled spots, for a total of 80 positions eliminated.

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