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Staffing Guidelines for Online Newspapers

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You don’t have time for your online newspaper. You don’t have enough staff. Should you hire someone to work on it? How can you hire someone when budgets are being cut?

Staffing an online newspaper is full of issues whether a paper is a weekly, metro daily or somewhere in-between. Here are six principles for making decisions about staffing for online newspaper publishing.

1. Cost allocation. In a time of tight profits and soft revenue, the first principle of staff reorganization is cost neutrality. A good plan doesn’t require more staff or higher pay. It is simply a matter of good planning.

2. Communication. The staff needs to know why the changes are being made and how it will impact them. Paradigm shifts for a staff that has been doing a business the same way for decades is difficult at best. Prepare them not just for weeks but for months. Keep talking it up until they are used to the idea and start to make the shift in their own minds before they make the actual shift in duties. Otherwise, resistance and conflict are likely with certain staffers.

3. Staff allocation. Dedicate 5-10 percent of total staff time to the Web site in order to get online ad revenues to 5-10 percent of newspaper ad revenues. This ratio is a standard in the industry. So the average staffer should be spending two to four hours a week with online duties.

4. Job descriptions. An important part of shifting print staff to do online newspaper publishing is making changes to their job descriptions. An AE can easily upsell a print display ad. A classified rep can easily upsell a liner. Likewise, the same is true of an editor who can put a story online. But they can’t do more. Something has to give. If the AEs have fewer accounts, they now have more time. If the news hole is smaller, the editors now have more time.

5. Training. Schedule quarterly training, even if it is only an hour. New habits take time to establish. New employees get hired. People sometimes revert to old ways. The lack of training — or in reality consistent reminders about new tasks and responsibilities — is one of the most common causes of failure or slow rollout of a staff that manages both print and online.

6. Compensation. “You’re asking me to do more, so you should pay me more.” That’s a frequent response to a major shift in responsibility. The answer lies in the job descriptions and a provable increase in workload. Review the news hole, the number of stories written per week, number of accounts, revenue results and other measureable means of tracking workload. Good judgment and common sense will resolve the issue eventually.

Before any other consideration, a good human resource plan is essential in achieving goals for online newspaper publishing. It’s the people who achieve the results.

2 Responses to “Staffing Guidelines for Online Newspapers”

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