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Postmedia will stop some Sunday papers, cut unspecified number of jobs

TORONTO – Postmedia is permanently axing Sunday papers in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa and cutting an unspecified number of jobs in its newsrooms.

The moves come as the National Post also puts its Monday edition on vacation for the summer, part of a broader move to reduce costs across the company.

“This is the fourth summer it will not do Mondays,” said Postmedia spokeswoman Phyllise Gelfand in an interview.

“And although (the National Post) hasn’t announced anything further, they’re also looking at publication schedules.”

Postmedia employees in at least one newsroom were told layoffs would not start until the fall.

The sweeping changes come as Canada’s largest publisher by circulation of paid English-language daily papers tries to cut print-related production costs. Earlier this month, the publisher also decided to cancel an in-house wire service, Postmedia News, resulting in the loss of some two dozen jobs.

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In a note to readers on its website, the Edmonton Journal said its last Sunday edition will be June 24. The Ottawa Citizen is scheduled to follow in mid-July and the Calgary Herald at an undecided date.

“News will continue to be updated online, on mobile and tablet so you will continue to receive the very best local news on our digital platforms,” the Journal statement read.

In a memo to staff, Montreal Gazette editor-in-chief and publisher Alan Allnutt said more than 20 editorial positions would be cut in the next few months.

“All roles, from managers on down, will be redefined with a digital focus,” said Allnutt, who added voluntary buyouts will be offered in most departments.

Last week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune – one of the oldest newspapers in the U.S. – announced it will cut back publishing to three times a week starting in the fall.

While Allnutt told staff he doesn’t think the Gazette is at that stage yet, “we are looking at all possible options to reduce cost around print and continue the transition to digital delivery of our products.”

Postmedia owns the Vancouver Province, the Vancouver Sun, the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Windsor Star, as well as the Canada.com online news and information portal.

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In its most recent quarter, Postmedia (TSX:PNC.B) reined in its losses, while a drop in business from national advertisers dragged revenues lower.

The Toronto-based company, formerly part of the Canwest media empire broken up in 2010, said its net loss was $11.1 million in the three months ended Feb. 29. That compared with a loss of $12.5 million a year earlier when it booked a $1.8-million loss from discontinued operations sold to Glacier Media.

Overall, revenues fell 7.6 per cent to $198.6 million, with the majority of the drop on weaker print advertising, which was down 10.6 per cent or $14.5 million.

As part of the changes, Postmedia will expand its Hamilton operations to handle the editorial production of newspaper pages.

The company will also rollout its metered paywall to websites in additional markets with the intention of expanding it across all of its network.

“When you see print advertising revenues declining, and … growth in online audiences, we certainly are looking to manage the costs of the print production and looking for ways to invest energy and resources in online,” Gelfand said.