One of the after-effects of creating a "digital-first" operation, as many publishers are doing these days, is what to do with a sizable share of the employee base that’s been dedicated to the print products. In the case of legal information media company ALM, it’s had to cut 35 positions among its editorial and production ranks.
The cuts were made at the end of June and there were no associated print closures.
The official statement from Kevin Michielsen, chief operating officer of ALM, which employs about 800 people, claims that the eliminations were not a cost-cutting measure, but rather intended to streamline operations:
"Last year, ALM embarked on an aggressive initiative to modernize the way we deliver news and information to our customers by building a ‘digital-first’ organization. This initiative led us to make new investments in digital technologies and we’re now better equipped to meet the needs of our readers in today’s business environment. Now that we’ve begun to roll out a number of new digital products and tools to our customers, the next phase of this initiative requires us to make some changes to our organizational structure in order to realign ALM’s editorial and production teams.
"On June 27, 2013, we announced the elimination of 35 positions. Although the decision to reduce staffing is never easy, this was the result of a careful analysis of what was needed for us to create a more nimble and productive editorial team. Our goal is to build an efficient editorial structure that takes advantage of our national scale and works cooperatively across our portfolio of publications so that we’re better positioned for the competitive business environment that media companies must confront in this era.
"To be clear, this is not a short-term, cost-cutting move. ALM’s management team and board of directors is pleased with the company’s recent financial performance. These organizational changes are an important step toward ALM’s long-term success in today’s digital world by becoming more operationally efficient in the way we deliver legal news and information to our customers."
The 35 positions represent less than 7 percent of the editorial and production staff, says Michielsen, who adds that there are new positions opening up as a result of the reorganization. Four have been identified so far.
Nevertheless, private equity-backed b-to-b companies are historically run very lean and one source says the cuts had to run deep. "Hard to believe they had 35 ‘surplus’ positions floating around editorial," he says.
ALM is still backed by Apax Partners, which reduced its 71 percent stake in the company to 51 percent in 2009 when ALM was spun off from Incisive Media as a standalone company. The Royal Bank of Scotland took the other 49 percent. At the time, the deal dropped ALM’s debt from $450 million to $300 million.