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Tampa Tribune cuts staff, hyperlocal websites coming

The Tampa Tribune announced today that it’s cutting or outsourcing approximately 70 positions — just over 5 percent of its staff. At the same time, the Tribune said it’s planning to launch “a number” of hyperlocal and community sites as extensions of TBO.com. “Our newspaper is experiencing the challenges of changing reader needs and fundamental shifts in spending by our traditional advertisers,” said Denise Palmer, president and publisher. “We are reducing resources in areas that are in decline and investing in areas of growth, including local news and the Internet,” she said. The Tribune, WFLA and TBO.com have been a model of convergence — they share a newsroom — yet declining revenue on the newspaper side is taking its toll.

Three hyperlocal sites have already launched — Brandon News, Suncoast News-Pasco and Suncoast News-Pinellas. “Basically, we’re turning all of our zone/weekly reporters into online producers, so that they think online first and print second,” said TBO.com VP/GM Randy Coats. TBO’s staff will jump from 14 on the content side to 40+. The secret? “A pretty turn-key CMS that they run without TBO intervention.” A dozen more sites are expected to launch this summer. Press release follows…

PRESS RELEASE — April 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — The Tampa Tribune today
announced plans for several product changes and cost reductions to align
operations more closely with readers’ and advertisers’ evolving needs.

“All of our changes are designed to advance our mission to serve Tampa
Bay as the leading information provider,” said Denise Palmer, president and
publisher of The Tampa Tribune. “We know from research that our readers
want news that is hyper-local and useful to their daily lives. We plan to
provide more focused products to better serve changing reader and
advertiser needs. At the same time, we will accelerate efforts to operate
more efficiently,” said Ms. Palmer.

The newspaper will consolidate certain operations and outsource others.
As a result, there will be a reduction of approximately 70 staff positions
at The Tampa Tribune. Affected employees will be informed over the next few
days. Full-time employees will be offered severance packages. “Our decision
to part with valued employees was difficult, and we very much appreciate
the contributions of all those who will be affected by today’s
announcement,” said Ms. Palmer. The Tampa Tribune currently has
approximately 1,335 employees.

“Our newspaper is experiencing the challenges of changing reader needs
and fundamental shifts in spending by our traditional advertisers. We are
reducing resources in areas that are in decline and investing in areas of
growth, including local news and the Internet,” she said.

Over the next several months, The Tampa Tribune plans a number of
changes to the daily newspaper. The changes will include combining the
Friday Baylife section into the Friday Extra section. “The combined section
will provide readers all the information they need to plan their weekend,”
Ms. Palmer said. “On Sunday, we will realign certain sections of the
newspaper to improve ease of use and reduce costs.”

The Tampa Tribune will also transition the content of its
geographically- zoned sections into its community newspapers that better
provide highly local news and better connect readers and advertisers. The
Tribune also will launch a number of hyper-local and interactive community
Web sites as extensions of TBO.com.

The newspaper will reduce its page width by one-half inch, or a
reduction of four percent, this fall to make the product easier to handle.
The change will also reduce newsprint expense. Distribution of The Tampa
Tribune in Citrus, Manatee and Hardee counties, which are outside its core
market, will be discontinued.

To help facilitate these improvements, The Tampa Tribune has invested
approximately $16 million in capital improvements over recent years,
including a new shared editorial and advertising system and tools for Web
partner TBO.com. These improvements facilitate content sharing and improve
reader functions such as Internet search. In addition, the new tools will
enable readers to contribute content and interact with the papers more
easily.

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