| TEL AVIV
TEL AVIV Oct 4 Workers at Haaretz, a leading
liberal Israeli newspaper, held a one-day strike to protest
plans for layoffs and for the first time in nearly 30 years the
daily was not distributed on Thursday.
Haaretz's financial woes follow last month's agreement by
conglomerate IDB to sell heavily indebted tabloid
Maariv to the publisher of the right-wing newspaper Makor
Rishon. The sale would lead to the sacking of a
large part of Maariv's 2,000 workers and underscores the plight
of the printed media in a news-obsessed Israel.
While Israeli newspapers - like the print industry worldwide
- are struggling to compete in an increasingly digitalised
world, their situation has been aggravated by the entry of the
free Israel Hayom newspaper.
Israel Hayom is funded by American casino magnate Sheldon
Adelson, a high-profile Republican donor and close ally of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"People tend to invest in media not just to get a proper
return on investment," said one industry analyst in Tel Aviv who
asked not to be identified. "So the fact that you have a paper
like Israel Hayom, which is probably not just for making profits
but (is backed by) someone with deep pockets who has an agenda,
makes it difficult for the others to survive."
The problems of Israeli newspapers are compounded by the
failure of advertising revenue in Israel to keep up with the
growth in the economy and population. Advertising revenue is not
enough to support three television broadcasters, four mainstream
newspapers and three business dailies, analysts say.
Other than loss-making Maariv, Israeli newspapers are
privately held so their precise financial situation is difficult
At Haaretz, management is seeking to lay off at least 100
journalists out of 400 workers, said workers' committee member
"Haaretz did not reach subscribers and the streets this
morning and this is a sad day for us all," he told Army Radio.
"Clearly there have to be cuts but we think the Haaretz
(management) needs to see how to increase income and not only to
Haaretz's own journalists admit that in the long run things
will have to change drastically.
"The end of the print media is just a matter of time,"
columnist Amir Teig wrote on the website of TheMarker, Haaretz's
financial newspaper. TheMarker's employees also were on strike.
Teig said the digital medium must quickly become the focus
of newspapers if they are to survive and pointed to the example
of Israel's Yellow Pages, the maker of printed phone directories
that reinvented itself as a successful Internet-based business.
Maariv deputy editor Shay Golden on Thursday called on the
government to aid his paper as well as Haaretz in order to
survive the current crisis as they adapt their business models.
"Under our noses one of the greatest threats to democracy in
Israel since its founding is taking place. The printed newspaper
industry is collapsing," he wrote on the front page of Maariv.
(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis)