LA Times adopts 24h online news
The LA Times is turning to the internet, one of the last of the big US papers to do so.
The new Editor, James E. O’Shea has appointed an editor for innovation to lead the paper’s 940 journalists towards their new 24 hour focus.
The Times’ own report on the changes makes the point that last year, an internal committee called the paper ‘web-stupid’.
That said, it still makes a lot of money, over US$200 million in pre-tax profit, with substantial web revenues already, US$60 million. Not bad when your online department is just 18 people.
Former LA Times Publisher, Jeffrey M. Johnson, and former Editor Dean Baquet departed the paper last year, after refusing to initiate further job cuts. Johnson was widely quoted : “Newspapers can’t cut their way into the future.”
This LA times article shows how staff numbers have dropped over the years and makes these two points which are worth repeating:
- A newspaper that is indifferent to its bottom line goes out of business; a newspaper that thinks only of its bottom line has a business that isn’t worth saving
- Newspapers are a great business for somebody who wants to make a lot of money for a very long time; they’re a lousy business for somebody who wants all the money they can imagine this quarter.
This is further recognition that internet convergence is not a quick process. Currently online revenues are half what they need to be in order for the Times to merely stand still.
But the Times has an interesting problem. For a regional newspaper it has a big and well recognised national (arguably international, I’m a reader!) brand. Over 75% of LATimes.com readers are not from southern California, but this isn’t great for business as the advertising is mostly local.
The Times’ strategy is to be more local to win local audiences, but I wonder if it’s possible to have your cake and eat it. Capitalise on the national and international audience – LA is the home of Hollywood after all – and target ads at them.