Hearst redundancies: Cosmopolitan publisher cuts 20% of UK workforce

Magazine publisher Hearst to make up to fifth of its UK staff redundant

Hearst UK redundant staff

Redundancies have been announced at magazine publisher Hearst with up to a fifth of its UK staff finding their jobs at risk.

The proposed cutbacks also include the closure of Town & Country UK magazine, which Hearst launched in 2014, plus the sale of the Net Doctor website and some other print titles being published less frequently.

Hearst UK publishes magazines including Cosmopolitan, Elle, Red, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Prima, Men’s Health and Women’s Health.

Hearst UK has got through the Covid-19 pandemic so far without making any staff redundant or using the Government furlough scheme.

But staff were told on Thursday afternoon that one in five staff would see their roles closed or pooled under new proposals and that enhanced voluntary redundancy packages will be offered.

Staff were told that although the company is in a strong position it needs to transform into a more modern organisation and invest in growth areas because of the way the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated consumer trends.

A Hearst Magazines spokesperson said: “Our well-diversified and stable parent company has enabled us to stand by our employees through the worst of the health crisis by protecting jobs and benefits.

“While our path to the future has not changed, the pandemic has accelerated trends in consumer behaviour and media consumption and we need to further transform our organisation to better serve our audience and advertisers and invest in growth areas.”

Three key areas of growth over the past year have been digital advertising, e-commerce and print subscriptions, staff were told.

[Read more: Hearst was forced to cut magazine subscription offers due to surge in take-up during lockdown]

The changes will include streamlining across all areas and levels of seniority including in editorial, commercial and consumer marketing.

Many of the editorial teams will work and collaborate more closely with colleagues in the US, resulting in job cuts. Staff were told they would continue to ensure their magazines are “culturally relevant and distinctly British”.

Commercial teams will be “repurposed” under an evolution of the advertising sales strategy.

The company said in September it was preparing for Covid-19 losses to eat up a “large proportion” of its cash resources.

The 2019 full-year accounts for National Magazine Company, of which Hearst UK is its subsidiary, revealed increased profitability pre-Covid.

Pre-tax losses in 2019 were £2m, down from £6m the year before, and the company reported a 3.6% drop in revenue from £146m to £140.6m. Operating profit more than doubled from £0.7m to £2.2m.

Hearst UK chief executive James Wildman said at the time: “Fluctuations in demand and increased online competition for advertising revenue could have a marked impact on profitability.

“However, the positioning of our magazine brands and our mixed portfolio of magazines and diversification into digital publishing, events and other revenues helps to manage the exposure to this risk.”

In November Hearst UK announced it was upping the frequency of Prima in print from 12 to 13 editions a year, citing a 68% subscriptions boost over the previous year and strong performance on the newsstand.

How Hearst UK magazine circulations fared in 2020, via ABC:

Publication UK and ROI total ABC total Year-on-year % change Free copies
Men’s Health        88,023 -20%           6,573
Inside Soap        69,704 -13%
ASDA Magazine   1,825,000 2%   1,825,000
Good Housekeeping      410,241 -2%           1,178
Prima      207,766 -3%
Country Living      169,114 2%           1,101
Cosmopolitan      167,654 -14%         49,657
Red      127,043 -18%           6,367
Elle (U.K.)        96,355 -16%         51,523
Women’s Health        88,840 -28%           5,758
Harper’s Bazaar        84,361 -17%         46,208
House Beautiful        84,342 -4%           1,076
Real People        83,360 -14%
Best        83,143 -17%
Elle Decoration        41,311 -13%           1,010
Runner’s World        52,471 -10%              127

Town & Country is not audited by ABC.

Picture: Hearst UK

SIGN UP HERE FOR

FUTURE OF MEDIA

Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.