Dallas News Publisher Jim Moroney Addresses Decision to Shutter Quick, Rumors of Layoffs

As Merritt noted on Mixmaster earlier, The Dallas Morning News will no longer publish Quick after its August 4 issue, bringing to a close the free weekly's 8-year-long run. Jim Moroney, the publisher and CEO at The News, tells Unfair Park he broke the news to its staff at around 10:30 this morning: Seven full-timers have been laid off, as have two part-timers. All will be given severance, and all have been told they can apply for other jobs at the paper if and when they come open.

But there aren't any at present -- and he's not sure when that will be the case.

Moroney tells Unfair Park that closing Quick was "a difficult decision," but an inevitable one, given that it simply never made money.

"Look, I was very, very excited and very, very invested in the creation and launch of Quick in '03 and took a lot of pride in it and felt very personal about it," he says. "It was something we developed on my watch, and that makes it all the harder that you're going to shut it down. But, frankly, it had been mostly a break-even proposition for the past few years. Some months you'd make some money; some months you'd lose some money. The staff was doing everything it could, but we couldn't find a business model where we could match revenue with expenses and make it something sustainable or profitable enough to continue to operate.

"A lot of smart people were trying to come up with different ways to make it work. But we looked up and said, 'It's just not getting there, and we've got things that are very successful, like Al Dia and Briefing, that we can focus time and attention on.'"

I asked Moroney if today's announcement related to a long-floating rumor that layoffs are once again coming the newspaper.

"This is an isolated event with Quick," he says. "Whether it happened today or six months from now or six months ago, it's a singular event. The newspaper industry -- and you can check me on this -- through the first quarter of this year has had 21 consecutive quarters of declining ad revenue. ... We are in an industry that continues to do more with less, and continuing to run the business smartly and more efficiently is a permanent condition for now.

"I wish I could say ad revenues will turn around in the third and fourth quarter, and they might, but they haven't in the past five years. I said, 'Guys, this isn't about will there be layoffs tomorrow or in six months.' We are continuing to find new ways to line up our expenses with where our revenues are. While we've done better than some other companies in the industry, you can't go up against a strong tide and expect to beat it forever."

I asked about the so-called premium content -- whether the pay wall's working to bring in revenue. Moroney didn't say. He spoke instead about how it's providing "a whole lot of really good information about our subscribers and how they use our digitally distributed content." He did say Sunday circulation's improving, but that "the newspaper industry has had a decline in circulation for the last 20 years. It's just gotten more pronounced."

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