CHICAGO In what chairman and CEO Gary Pruitt called a reversal of a years-long policy, the McClatchy Co. will begin paying sales commissions to ad agencies.
The move will "level the playing field" with other media that pay commissions, McClatchy told shareholders at the sparely attended annual convention.
Paying commissions is among the most dramatic steps McClatchy is taking as it adopts a new advertising sales strategy, according to an account of the meeting by media writer Dale Kasler in the McClatchy flagship Sacramento Bee's Web site.
For the first time, McClatchy will sell its help-wanted classifieds as Web-first ads, with printed newspapers serving as what Pruitt called "a complement" to CareerBuilder, the online jobs site.
McClatchy is a minority stakeholder in CareerBuilder along with Tribune Co., and majority owner Gannett Co. Other elements of the new ad sales strategy include creating rate incentives for more frequent ad buys; reaching out to former advertisers; and beefing up McClatchy's partnership with Yahoo, Pruitt said.
Since McClatchy's last annual meeting, the parent company of The Miami Herald and Kansas City Star has cut its work force by 4,000, or one-third of its previous full-time workers. McClatchy's stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI, has dropped below $1 a share, and the exchange has warned it could be delisted because its market and shareholder capitalization have fallen below minimum Big Board standards.
Pruitt said he was optimistic long-term about the newspaper industry, but said, "We have a serious fight on our hands," according to the Bee's account.