Gannett Co., publisher of more than 80 daily newspapers including USA Today, offered buyouts, or early retirement packages, to 665 employees in its U.S. Community Publishing division.

The move by Gannett comes a day after the Washington Post Co. announced it will offer buyouts to certain newsroom employees. The details have yet to be hashed out on that specific deal.

Gannett has about 32,600 employees companywide, according to its 2010 annual report, down more than 20,000 since 2005. The company has cut headcount aggressively due to declining advertising revenue for its print newspapers as advertisers scaled back spending during the recession and readers increasingly read articles online rather than in print.

The voluntary buyouts are for employees who are at least 56 years old and have worked at the McLean, Va.-based company for at least 20 years as of March 31, according to a company memorandum posted on Gannett Blog. A spokesperson for Gannett could not immediately be reached to verify the posting.

Employees who take advantage of the program will receive two weeks of pay for each year of service, capped at 52 weeks. Health, dental and vision coverage will continue during this time period.

As mentioned - the program is completely voluntary for these valued, long-term employees, Bob Dickey, president of Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing division, said in the memo that employees received Thursday. They have helped steer a strong and steady course for the company for many years, including through recent challenging economic times, and their work is deeply appreciated.

Eligible employees have 45 days to accept the offer. If not enough people take advantage of the buyout, companies typically resort to layoffs, which usually offer employees less generous severance packages.

The memo pointed out that the buyout was pursued instead of other cost management actions, but the memo said the company cannot rule out other actions in the future.

The deal is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only. That division publishes 82 daily newspapers across the country, including The Arizona Republic, Detroit Free Press and The Indianapolis Star.

Gannett, whose fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent compared to the year-earlier period, has received criticism in the past for its cost cutting while increasing the pay of its top executives. Gannett Blog notes Dickey was paid $3.4 million in 2010, up from $1.9 million in 2009.

Shares of Gannett were up 1.44 percent to $14.82 in morning trading.