P. Steven Ainsley runs the Boston Globe but the publisher says he wasn't part of the decision to threaten a May 1 shutdown unless unions came up with $20 million in concessions on a tight clockor to do it right after a round of layoffs and buyouts. "That was made at the upper reaches of the company," Ainsley told the Globe in his first extensive interview since the threat. Referring to parent company The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT), he said the layoffs were a planned part of the 2009 budget "but we never anticipated this year starting off, as difficult as it has started off. I would have to think that precipitated (the) decision."
Are more layoffs coming? "Layoffs, or staff reductions, or force reductions in one way shape or form are probably part of how we operate this newspaper for at least the foreseeable future Are there plans right now for additional layoffs? "No, there are not. But I'm not going to be disingenuous about it." His own salary and benefits have been cut, and the bonus eliminated.
Asked if the paper would still be here in a year, Ainsley refered to a mix of revenue intitiatives and cost cuts that should keep the paper in business. Among them: the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) partnership. The mix "will get us pretty close to where we need to be." He wouldn't even touch the question of whether the paper will still be owned by the NYTCo in a year, declining comment on reports that the paper is being shopped by its parent.
Kindle part of platform search: Further out, though, and he sees some changes coming for print. Unlike his colleague at the Dallas Morning News, who protested Amazon's 70-30 terms to the U.S. Senate, Ainsley said the paper's pleased to be one of only three Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) asked along with the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) and the New York Times. (Personally, I think of it as a package deal for the NYT and the Globe. Two, two, two mints in one.) For Ainsley, it's part of finding ways to use different platforms "until we find the one that gains the broadest acceptance is certainly part of our strategy."
But Boston.com, which is he calls one of the most successful sites in the U.S. in terms of revenue, has yet to break through in a way that rivals print when it comes to digital revenue. The site contributes 10 percent of the paper's revenues. "I think it's entirely likely that, I'm really scared about putting a timetable on it, but at some point over the course of the next several years, newspapers in general and the Globe, will be tackling a different strategy with respect to what's in print and what's online." I know more than a few people to whom that will sound very slow. Ainsley said he doesn't know anything that could have been done to mitigate the current losses but if he could turn back the clock, he'd go back 10 years and react faster "with more precision" to the internet.
By Staci D. Kramer