Newspapers: News & Revenue Moving Online

by Dan Blank on January 25, 2007

Los Angeles Times Editor James E. O’Shea message to its 940 journalists: begin viewing latimes.com as the paper’s primary vehicle for delivering news.

He is staging a massive reorganization of their editorial focus and structure, with the following elements:

  • Create the new position of ‘editor for innovation.’
  • Launch an “Internet 101” course to teach reporters, editors and photographers how to post content to the web.

The reasons for the drastic changes:

  • “If we don’t help reverse these revenue trends, we will not be able to cost-effectively provide the news — the daily bread of democracy. The stakes are high.”
  • Latimes.com’s traffic tops most other newspaper websites. But usage trends are in the wrong direction.

The Times had organized a committee of journalists who assessed the state of their business. They found the following issues that are stalling growth:

  • Lack of assertive leadership and adequate focus on the website, both inside The Times and at the paper’s parent, Tribune Co.
  • Understaffing. Latimes.com employs about 18 “talented and dedicated” editorial employees, only a fraction of the 200 employees at the Washington Post’s website and the 50 employed by the New York Times’ site.
  • “Creaky” technology that has made it impossible for latimes.com to host live chats between readers and journalists and to let readers customize stock tables or weather reports.
  • Failure to integrate the newspaper’s large news staff into operations at the web, contributing to delays in posting breaking news.
  • They are rarely first to post news to the internet, when compared to competitors.

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