UPDATED: As Creators-Copley Deal Becomes Official, Staff and Feature Changes Implemented

By: Dave Astor

After an intense transitional period of less than five weeks, Copley News Service (CNS) Tuesday officially became part of Creators Syndicate.

CNS now has a new name (Creators News Service) and a redesigned Web site (which can be accessed via Creators.com or — until Oct. 1 — at CopleyNews.com). There has also been a major reduction in the CNS staff, and perhaps 15 or so CNS features are being dropped by Creators.

When the deal was announced in late May, CNS had 21 employees. According to Creators, two editors and one salesperson have been retained, one former CNS salesperson is returning, and — as E&P reported in late May — longtime CNS executive Glenda Winders will be a consultant.

Creators President Richard S. Newcombe said 21 staffers are no longer needed — partly because CNS no longer processes copy from various Copley Press newspapers. Copley sold a number of its papers in Illinois and elsewhere well before the Creators deal.

CNS staffers losing their jobs are reportedly getting buyouts from Copley Press.

One of the retained CNS editors will work in Los Angeles (where Creators is based) and another retained editor and one of the retained salespeople will work out of San Diego (where CNS was based).

Newcombe said Creators will rent the CNS office through the end of September, after which employees in the San Diego area will do their jobs from their homes.

The returning CNS salesperson will work out of his home in northern California.

Ann Mellon, an 11-year veteran of CNS, is the salesperson who will remain in San Diego. She said Newcombe and others at Creators “have been wonderful to work with during the transition,” and that she’s happy to be at Creators News Service.

Mellon, who will handle special-section sales on a national basis for the new CNS, added in an E&P phone interview that it also “was wonderful to work with everybody at Copley News Service over the years.”

Creators National Sales Director Margo Sugrue said the syndicate, starting Tuesday, has been calling clients of dropped CNS features to offer substitute ones from the Creators lineup. For instance, to replace “Fitness Forum,” Creators is offering “Energy Express” by Marilynn Preston, “Lifelong Health” by Dr. David Lipschitz, and the “Ask Joe Weider” column. “We’re giving them all three,” she noted.

Sugrue, reached between phone calls Wednesday afternoon, added: “The initial reaction of some clients is to be a little cranky and suspicious, but then they see that they have many choices.”

Among the other CNS features being dropped are a golf video and the “Daily News Service.”

Sugrue added that the 15-plus CNS packages are being consolidated into four larger packages.

Of course, some CNS features aren’t similar to those on the Creators roster. “They fill in some of the holes we have,” said Vice President for Operations Marianne Sugawara. “And of course their editorial cartoonists are just great.”

Among the CNS cartoonists are 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez of Investor’s Business Daily.

Sugawara, like others at Creators, said she’s “excited” about the addition of CNS. But the vice president added that there has been a lot of work involved and the inevitable challenges.

For instance, CNS clients are accustomed to downloading content off CopleyNews.com, while Creators clients get features via e-mail and FTP. “So we had to recreate the download section of the Copley site,” reported Sugawara.

Newcombe said future plans for the combined syndicates include possibly launching one or more consumer-oriented Web sites next year in addition to the current, primarily business-to-business online presence.

Why was there less than five weeks for the transition? “Copley Press wanted to close by July 1,” said Newcombe. “And I thought it would be good to work quickly so CNS employees wouldn’t have their future up in the air for too long.”

Does he have any worries about buying CNS at a time when the U.S. economy and newspaper aren’t doing well? No, Newcombe replied.

“This is very good for Creators Syndicate,” he told E&P. “Adding Copley News Service expands all the [content] categories we have. It opens up more smaller-newspaper markets for us. There are economies of scale. We now have more salespeople and more editors.”

To see the May 29 E&P story analyzing the Creators-Copley deal (the biggest syndicate merger since Tribune Media Services and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate combined eight years ago) click here.

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