Sesame Street Shrinks
Valentine's Day wasn't all wine and roses for 60 employees of the Sesame Workshop. According to recent reports, the multimedia network cut dozens of jobs in an attempt to scale down production in both television and print. And while rumors that the network's Sesame Street Magazine would also succumb to Big Bird's beef, the network announced the popular kids magazine is being turned over to AOL Time Warner's Parenting Group, the current publisher of Parenting and Family Life magazines.
With a mission to tout virtues such as innovation, optimism, knowledge and diversity, Sesame Street's non-profit publishing venture is not alone in recent cutbacks. Several notable publishing conglomerates announced scale downs in the last few weeks, including The Industry Standard and Salon.com.
But in the wake of Sesame's latest news, AOL Time Warner is expected to profit. Not only is the month-old super power already banking on $600 million in annual cost savings with a reported 300 percent increase in online traffic, says Time Warner CEO MIchael Kelly, but Parenting magazine also promises success. According to AOL Time Warner reports, Parenting magazine will be shipped in the same package as Sesame Street Magazine, which has an estimated circulation of one million. As a result, Parenting will double it's current circulation to more than two million readers per issue.
Both publications will target pre-school-age children and their parents. The adult magazine is billed as a publication "for busy moms and dads who want fast, smart, up-to-date information about raising the kids." The children's magazine is based on longtime-Sesame Street learning styles, by encouraging "two- to six-year-olds to expand their imaginations, develop social skills, and learn their ABCs and 1-2-3s."
The three other magazines published by Sesame Workshop—Sesame Street Parents, Kids City and Content Kids—will fold come April 2001, eliminating a collective circulation of approximately nearly two million readers. In an attempt to salvage investments on the trilogy of magazines, the company is selling subscription lists for Kids City and Content Kids, but no buyers have made bids at press time.
As for the staffs at the three soon-to-be-defunct magazines, only half dozen or so writers and editors will be spared from the reported $60 million cutback within Sesame's estimated $140 million revenue base. Using elementary math, of the 425-person company, the layoffs total about 14 percent.
-Natalie Hope McDonald