El Pais was not ready for digital as well
Dec 3, 2012
El Pais faces collective dismissal and financial challenges due to anachronistic practices and failure to adapt to digital media.
In October, the Spanish newspaper El Pais, one of the largest in Europe, announced a collective dismissal that impacted nearly 30% of its staff, the largest the newspaper has ever experienced in a single blow. This is not simply a restructuring of the newspaper. With unemployment reaching 50% among young people aged 18-25, the newspaper has been forced to make drastic changes. "We cannot continue like this if we want to maintain El Pais", the president of the newspaper told employees [N. of E,: phrase with double meaning given the situation in Spain]. However, the newspaper will pay the price for its anachronism - the legal difficulties of hiring in Spain have caused staff numbers to swell, maintaining unproductive journalists who do not deal with new media and who have a high average cost (almost €90,000 annually) - a lot for a medium that is losing revenues. But the dismissals are not likely to solve the crisis. A lesson that Brazilian media can learn now for future crises: the solution is to adapt the medium to the new realities.
Since revenues still exist in the market (albeit smaller), it is concluded (as I have already written more than once here) that the problem of newspapers is not revenue - it is costs. A manager may respond that one thing depends on the other, but in this case, it is half the truth, because there is also a technological change that allows huge savings for newspapers (how much have newspapers stopped spending, for example, on communication and printing, after the digitalization of both)? The problem is that the difference turned into dividends of shares of the groups and not investment in process and training. The result is that the 30% cut tends to simply create a workload overload for El Pais journalists if it is not accompanied by the necessary restructuring.
This change is mentioned in this post by journalist Juan Varela. He points out a solution that, despite being obvious, is not perceived by the vast majority of companies. It is not a matter of a cost cut. The change does not go through an evaluation by the human resources department, showing who produces or not, but rather the creation of a new business plan - and one that is not an appendage of the current structure, but rather a change in the DNA of the company, since the news environment has undergone a genre mutation. Anything short of this is an attempt to cure a systemic infection with an herbal tea.
In the case of a publication as emblematic as the Spanish daily, it is worth reflecting on what the bankruptcy of such a newspaper would represent. For the world, it would be a significant loss, but for Spain it would be a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of readers would lose a reference and all of Spanish journalism, which orbits around the title. After the blow, the Spanish news medium would recover - a fact that raises doubts in most journalists, suspicious of public participation, social media and the like.
Such changes are necessary around the world, although some - those related to the most important titles - also have social relevance (returning, imagine what El Pais means for Spain). Companies know how to make the changes they need. So why don't the changes happen? In most cases, because they require meddling with the interests of some classes and individuals, who are the ones who really control these companies. And making changes that affect the interests of those in power, THAT is difficult.