The Covid-19 pandemic and its implications (e.g. lockdown, physical distancing, and economic downturn) pose a tangible threat to media outlets everywhere. Journalists are having a more difficult time accessing sources, ad revenue has taken a big hit, and many popular news topics, like sports and travel, are at a near-complete standstill.
It is a paradox, to say the least. In a time when reliable reporting is needed most by society, news outlets are struggling to finance themselves. According to ComScore, news sites, in general, are recording a sharp increase in traffic as people are seeking more important information while staying indoors.
To avoid sudden closure, most news outlets need to tighten spending and operational costs. Even the smallest reduction can help save jobs and livelihoods. That said, here are just a few ways to reduce operational costs during the Covid-19 pandemic, while not resorting to layoffs.
Reduce office space costs
Most countries in the world are currently applying lockdown and work-from-home measures. This is a good signal to many teams that they can go ahead and simply slash office-related costs such as rent, utilities, and other related expenses (think printing, lunch reimbursements, employee parking, etc). Try checking your office internet bill, for example, and see if you can either pause the subscription altogether or downgrade your plan temporarily.
Evaluate non-essential tools
Does your team use certain paid online tools that you can do without? Look into the monthly billings and figure out which ones are not contributing to the core business. Afterward, decide whether to cut them entirely or find ways to reduce their costs. As an example, while LinkedIn Premium is still useful to find contacts online, you could try sharing a single premium account among several journalists, rather than buying subscriptions for each person.
Temporarily cut paychecks
While it’s not ideal, this is still a better way to reduce costs compared to layoffs. Transparently discuss the company’s financial outlook with the team and brainstorm ways to survive together. Cutting overhead costs should be the last option before resorting to layoffs, so team members should hopefully understand the reasoning behind this move.
Before moving to cut your team’s full-time salaries, try asking staffers if any of them would prefer to shift to part-time schedules. One interesting — and perhaps even a bit eccentric — way to reduce fixed costs is to “share employees” with other businesses.
Practiced by several Chinese firms in response to the pandemic, a handful of companies have opted to “share” the cost of employees with another firm that’s looking to add quick manpower. In the case of journalists, the other business might include other newsrooms looking for freelancers or businesses looking for adept content writers.
Seek government aid
Governments all around the world are launching new initiatives to help firms avoid massive layoffs. This can come in the form of tax reductions and partial subsidies for employee salaries. Check the latest updates from your local government regarding this issue and submit an application if necessary.
Leverage freelancers and outsourcing
With many newsrooms are freezing their hiring processes, you may want to explore working with freelancers instead. Have a roster of on-demand talent at your fingertips for work on a per-assignment basis can help editors keep pace with the rising demand for content.
Due to its ad hoc nature, working with freelancers can also help you manage a more flexible cost structure during these uncertain times.
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