What’s Up At National Geographic?

We reported on National Geographic’s “Voluntary Staff Reduction Plan” a while back.

    The buyout package gives employees 2.5 weeks of full pay per year of service, but the benefits package only extends six months. One source tells us that this package isn’t much of an improvement over previous packages offered to laid-off employees (up from 2 weeks of full pay per year of service).

    Many at the magazine–both current and former employees–believe that the cuts are a way for the magazine to thin the thick herds (National Geographic is, by most measures, overstaffed…primarily at the mid- and senior levels) and switch to a more traditional magazine structure. Said one: “It’s like they have five people for every job that needs to get done.” Many liken National Geographics structure to that of a publishing house: Very slow, staff heavy and with lots of redundancies.

So how has it gone? Have there been any takers?

Our sources inform us that as many as 27 people have taken the voluntary buyout thus far, even though 20 was the magazine’s target. We hear that this includes the entire art department (save the department head) and nearly half of the staff members from their website (which won the ASME award this year, don’t forget).

Are NG folks trying to jump ship? And, if so, is this a reflection of the year-old leadership of Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns?

The people who have opted for the buy-out may not have been the people National Geographic had hoped would take it (read: old folks with big salaries whom they don’t have to replace). Instead lots of young folks (read: cheap and flexible) have signed up, so National Geographic may end up having to replace a lot of those positions (instead of just retiring some positions along with retiring staffers). If this doesn’t lead to the cost-savings they had hoped for, will this lead to layoffs?