Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dobson empire on hard times?

An interesting development:
Focus on the Family announced Monday that it will cut 202 staff positions at its Colorado Springs headquarters, beginning at month's end.
Of these jobs, 149 are filled and 53 positions are vacant, officials said. About 20 percent of the positions are in management.
Most of the jobs end Nov. 28; however, some will be phased out December through February.
These losses and 46 layoffs announced by the ministry in October will bring its staff size to about 950, down from about 1,200 last year, said Focus chief operating officer Glenn Williams.
Does this indicate weakening of social conservatism? Is it a result of the decliining economy? Or -- and I think this the most likely explanation -- is it the result of an outdated business model?

Focus on the Family made a lot of its money by selling Christian-oriented books, CDs and DVDs through its monthly magazine, but those sales have declined, as the ministry admitted in announcing a first round of layoffs in September:
Over the past few years, Focus has seen a significant decline in its sales of books, CDs and DVDs, which the organization blames on competition from online retailers and large retailers like Wal-Mart. To help save money, Focus partnered with Christian Book Distributors of Peabody, Mass., to take over its product distribution early next year. Each shipment of materials costs Focus about $8, the organization's president and CEO, Jim Daly, said Tuesday. Through CBD, the cost will go down by more than 50 percent.
Whereas FOTF was a dominant player in a niche market, now they're facing competition in their niche. So somebody has to build a better mousetrap.

UPDATE: More information:
Donations are down, and Focus relies almost entirely on the charity of others.
That problem is reverberating throughout the nonprofit sector, said Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. president Mike Kazmierski.
"It's probably going to get worse," he said. "When people have to cut back, the only place they have to go is their discretionary income."
Glenn Williams, Focus' chief operating officer, said that more than 95 percent of the organization's income comes from donations, with book sales accounting for the remainder. Donations to Focus set a record high in fiscal 2008, he said. But donations began to decline in October, which starts Focus' new fiscal year, and after polling major donors, Focus expects this holiday season - normally the most lucrative time of the year for nonprofits - to be even more painful to the bottom line.
"Looking at October trends and talking to donors who are not in a position where they can give, we thought we'd be facing a more severe decision in January or February if we waited," Williams said.
The cuts are taking place throughout the organization. The most visible change will be the elimination of the print editions of four of its eight magazines.
The content of the magazines - Plugged In, Breakaway, Brio and Brio & Beyond - will remain online.
Plugged In, for example, has seen its print subscriber base dip to 30,000 while its Web site attracts 1 million unique visitors a month, Williams said.
You know, I'm not all that that impressed by 1 million uniques. Ace of Spade had 3.4 million visitors in October. Maybe they should hire Ace to run their Web division -- family values and Valu-Rite vodka!

Uh, seriously, though, a lot of old brick-and-mortar operations (including newspapers) are run by older guys who really don't know how to evaluate online activity from a business perspective. The Republican Party isn't the only old-school organization that can't get a clue online.

UPDATE II: The gay left is having a schadenfreude fest over this, since FOTF helped push passage of Proposition 8 in California. They apparently think only christofascist godbags are going to be hurt by this recession depression apocalyptic gotterdammerung.

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