Postmedia to move 12 Alberta papers to digital-only, will make layoffs

TORONTO — Postmedia is moving a dozen of its Alberta community newspapers to digital-only formats, eyeing more outsourcing deals for printing and laying off workers.

The moves were announced Wednesday in an internal memo to staff obtained by The Canadian Press that describes the measures as part of a "tremendous" transformation plan geared toward managing costs.

"Businesses everywhere have been facing similar pressures from a widespread economic contraction that has intensified over the past six months. We have seen this in technology, manufacturing, and in media," said Andrew MacLeod, Postmedia's president and chief executive.

"That intensified pressure means that we must accelerate our transformation."

Phyllise Gelfand, Postmedia's vice-president of communications, confirmed the changes in an email to The Canadian Press, but would not offer any specifics.

MacLeod's memo said the plan will result in an unspecified number of roles being eliminated across Postmedia over the coming months through hiring restrictions and layoffs.

"This is absolutely not a reflection on the hard work and contributions they have made to our company but rather an outcome of economic contraction that has affected so many companies globally and the inherent challenges of our industry," he wrote.

Newspaper conglomerates including Postmedia have long been struggling to deal with dwindling subscriber numbers, the rise of big tech companies that have eaten into media profits and more advertising moving online and away from print.

In recent years, Postmedia has coped by closing a number of small-town newspapers, reducing print production of some of its titles and resorting to layoffs and voluntary buyouts to manage costs.

While MacLeod did not name the newspapers that will be making the switch to digital-only formats, his memo said the transition will take place on Feb. 27.

It will be accompanied by Postmedia analyzing opportunities to outsource and centralize printing "where it makes sense to do so," MacLeod said.

The first step in that process is a Limited Partnership agreement with Glacier Media that Postmedia recently signed, his memo said.

The partnership will result in Postmedia moving its Saskatchewan printing to Estevan Printing and putting its Saskatoon building up for sale.

The company will also look to sublease a Regina property, leaving Saskatchewan-based employees to permanently adopt remote work.

MacLeod promised to provide further details around the changes to staff in a town hall Wednesday.

He said, "We know that this amount of change is unsettling but we must continue to focus on our strategy and delivering for our audiences, clients and partners."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2023.

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Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press