The National, the nine-month-old daily sports newspaper that is running into financial problems even as it tries to expand, has laid off 18 editorial employees to cut costs, a spokesman said Friday.
The layoffs, which amount to 6.5 percent of the company's total work force of about 275, offer the most concrete evidence to date of the privately held paper's difficulties in establishing itself with readers and advertisers as the first national sports daily in the United States.The newspaper has encountered a very difficult environment for advertising, with companies cutting back on spending as the economy weakens.
The poor advertising market has driven some magazines out of business and has prompted some media companies to close bureaus, lay off reporters, seek concessions from remaining employees and impose austerity measures.
Spokesman Stephen Hammond said those being laid off at The National include mostly editorial support workers such as layout designers and copy editors at sites nationwide.
The National currently publishes nine metropolitan editions in cities spread from Boston to San Diego and plans to launch three more - in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Baltimore-Washington - in the next three months.
Last week, the newspaper announced it was suspending publication of its Sunday issue after Nov. 25 because of low circulation and distribution difficulties. It will continue to publish on weekdays, Monday through Friday.
Also last week, the president and publisher of the paper, Peter O. Price, was stripped of day-to-day responsibilities for the operation and three top executives - the circulation director, assistant publisher and the finance and administration director - were fired.
The largest shareholder in the partnership that runs the paper, the Univisa unit of Mexico's Televisa entertainment and publishing company, put one of its U.S. executives, Jaime Davila, in charge of the National's operations.
John Morton, who follows newspaper companies for the brokerage firm Lynch Jones & Ryan in Washington, said, "This was bound to happen."
"They are trying to create something we have not had before. Whenever you are inventing something new, there will be unexpected events," he said.
Morton said The National has had trouble competing for readers with the sports sections of metropolitan dailies.
In addition, it was launched during a "media recession," he said.
"These are the worst conditions in the newspaper business in 20 years. That is very painful for a new newspaper that is trying to achieve a standing with readers and advertisers," Morton said.
He said the question of whether The National will survive much longer depends on how much its owners are prepared to lose.