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Trib Total Media announces restructuring to emphasize digital future

| Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, 10:15 a.m.
The Clark Building on Pittsburgh's North Side.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Clark Building on Pittsburgh's North Side.

Trib Total Media will lay off 153 full- and part-time employees as part of a restructuring of the media company, Trib President Jennifer Bertetto said Tuesday.

The restructuring reflects the rapid changes in print, broadcast and digital media worldwide, and the increasing shift by readers from print to digital newspapers and other multimedia platforms.

“We needed to take a close look at our bottom line in the midst of an evolving newspaper industry,” Bertetto said.

The major factor behind the restructuring, she said, was the need to align the company's advertising and news operations to “the rapidly evolving digital landscape that has drastically altered how readers get their news.”

“We are doing this to match the changing needs of our readers, subscribers, advertisers, business partners and our own employees, in order to build an exciting and profitable media future for all of those parties,” she said.

The restructuring includes the establishment of a company, 535 Media, which will encompass the Trib's digital, multimedia and other website operations. That affiliate has acquired a 40 percent share of NewsMax — “a proven national leader in digital news,” according to Bertetto — and is looking at several joint ventures with NewsMax “that will extend our local and national reach,” she said.

Additionally, the Trib is completing a redesign of its website, TribLIVE.com, that will launch in January. It includes a “beta” site that will allow readers to test or review some of the changes and to offer suggestions that can be considered for future website development.

Bertetto said employee-led digital innovation teams worked for months to develop other digital changes, including content tailored to specific groups of readers and key news categories. Several of those teams' recommendations are expected to begin operating in the spring.

“Our goal in all of this is to deliver the news where, when and how our readers want to receive it, and to provide more useful platforms for our advertisers,” she said.

She emphasized that the company is not abandoning its commitment to print.

It will consolidate its three largest dailies in Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Tarentum under the Tribune-Review nameplate as locally zoned editions. The papers' home-delivery footprints will be concentrated in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to eliminate unprofitable delivery routes.

“We do not like to turn away any of our customers,” she said, “but the financial reality is that home delivery is an expensive operation and, in some cases, is too expensive to justify.

“We will make the Trib available to many of those readers through expanded single-copy sales at newsstands and vending boxes. And we will work with all of our subscribers to access their news through the papers' electronic editions and a variety of other digital forms.”

She said the “e-edition” has steadily grown in appeal and readership, as an increasing number of customers have started using tablets and smartphones.

Bertetto said the decision to eliminate 153 of the company's 1,100 employees “was most difficult and painful, but necessary for us to adapt to the changing media landscape. We did everything possible to avoid this.”

The layoffs will take effect beginning Dec. 31.

Sixty-eight employees took buyouts in October.

In September, the company sold two of its dailies, the Connellsville Daily Courier and the Kittanning Leader Times, along with its Laurel Group of community weeklies and the Blairsville Dispatch weekly as part of its restructuring. The transfer of those papers to West Penn Media will occur at year's end.

Negotiations are ongoing on the sale of the Daily News in McKeesport and the Valley Independent in Monessen. If not sold, both will stop publishing Dec. 31, resulting in 91 layoffs.

“The end of any of our nameplates — all of them longtime fixtures in their communities — is regrettable and painful for everyone,” Bertetto said. “But we are not immune to the financial pressures that have forced even more drastic cutbacks by all of our competitors and by nearly every newspaper in the country.

“We believe all of these steps must be taken in order to preserve the other excellent media operations we have built over several decades, and to position ourselves for the future.”

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