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Media

Dallas Observer (And Every Other Media Outlet) Hammered by Advertising Downturn

All the economic models are about to change.
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Brace yourself. The media landscape — every industry’s landscape — is shifting. In six months, in a year, what you read and watch and listen to, the stuff that is produced by professionals who check facts and conduct interviews and have sources, it will all be different. Some outlets will no longer be in business. Others will be gutted. Radio and TV are surely facing their own hurdles, but I’m more attuned to print. Here’s what I know as of this morning:

Voice Media Group, the Denver-based parent of the Dallas Observer, is cutting salaries and preparing to cut jobs. Executives are taking a 35-percent reduction, those paid more than $80,000 are taking a 30-percent cut, and all others are cut 25 percent. Scott Tobias, VMG CEO, has told his employees:

To be clear, these actions will not make up for the current or anticipated decline in revenues. And let’s be frank: they may not be enough. If the environment gets worse, if the downturn lasts longer than we’re assuming, if our performance declines, we’ll have to reassess and make further moves.

Over at Central Track, founder Pete Freedman has been transparent about their dive in revenue, saying their advertisers have “essentially disappeared,” and he’s now asking for donations. Yesterday, I emailed leaders at the Advocate, Modern Luxury, PaperCity, and CultureMap to see where they stand. Only one has responded so far but not with anything worth reporting.

Which brings us to D Magazine. We are a larger organization than the ones mentioned above. That doesn’t mean we are immune. We know the Observer and Central Track are heralds of things to come for our entire industry. We’ve yet to feel the full force of the pandemic. Our online audience is up 70 percent year over year. Magazine sales, with all the panic grocery shopping, have actually been brisk. And our advertisers, the bulk of them so far, are sticking with us. But we know change is coming. We’re holding on tight, just like folks who run restaurants and gyms and hotels and theater companies.

Right now, we all need to heed the advice of Mr. Rogers’ mom. When faced with a catastrophe, look for the helpers. If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.

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