LA Times followup

Russ Stanton, editor of the LA Times, sent email following up on questions I had confirming the much-discussed report below that its web revenue is now sufficient to meet its entire editorial payroll. “Given where we were five years ago,” he email, “I don’t think anyone thought that would ever happen. But that day is here.”

Can I hear an amen?

Stanton does some bragging about the Times’ web life and given this milestone, let’s grant him the moment as Neilsen Net Ratings says it passed USA Today and the Washington Post in uniques with, according to internal numbers, 138 million page views in November, up more than 70% in a year, and 24 million uniques, up 125%.

Secret sauce?

There are two primary reasons for these sharp increases: We have added some outstanding web talent over the past two years, including latimes.com editor Meredith Artley, blogging guru Tony Pierce and database specialist Ben Welsh, who is part of a new 10-person team of interactive and data experts supplementing our print report with terrific online material (more on that in a minute). And our printside reporting and editing staffs have embraced the future like never before.

Nice to see a shoutout for longtime blogging comrade Pierce and for blogging itself:

One of the most visible measures of our success is our blog network. When I became innovation editor in January 2007, only four of our 49 blogs were produced by our staff, and those blogs accounted for only 2% of our site’s total monthly traffic. Today, we have more than 40 blogs, all but six of which are produced by our staff, led by Top of the Ticket, our presidential campaign/politics effort started by Andrew Malcolm and Don Frederick. Technorati now ranks Ticket in the top 60 blogs on the internet. At last count, about half our newsgathering staff — more than 300 professionals — are contributing to our blogs. In several of our traditional print sections (California, Sports, Books, Health, Travel), the entire staff is participating in that section’s main blog. That, in turn, has been acknowledged and valued by our readers. Today, our blogs account for 16% of our total monthly page views.

The paper set up a AM copy desk to start putting content online at 7am (those folks used to waltz in after lunch); many papers have such continuous news desks. Like other papers, the Times is also training lensemen in video.

And here’s my favorite part: education.

With some help from our HR folks, we’ve set up a 40-class curriculum on how to expand the skills our staff needs in these key areas. The most popular classes so far are learning the software program for posting to the web, headline writing to improve SEO, how to shoot and edit video, and 360-degree storytelling, taught by Aaron Curtiss, our innovation editor.

  • amy

    “those folks used to waltz in after lunch.” why the unnecessary and misleading dig? if anybody on the copy desk “waltzed in after lunch” it was no doubt because they were working until midnight. i mean, really.

  • http://thefesteringswamp.com/ Bradley J. Fikes

    It wasn’t the entire editorial payroll Stanton was referring to, but just the Web site’s editorial payroll. That’s how the quote reads literally to me, although it is ambiguous.

    If I’m wrong, I’d be delighted for the future of journalism, but please check with Stanton on this.

  • http://www.latimes.com Andrew D. Nystrom

    @Bradley – Here’s a direct quote from Russ Stanton, from an email he sent me earlier this morning, in response to many requests from around the social media realm for clarification about his revenue comment at USC last week.

    “Our digital revenue this year [for the Los Angeles Times] will be equal to our newsroom payroll (web and print) and that is salaries only.”

    Those are actual numbers for 2008. Our business folks are projecting that digital revenue will exceed total newsroom payroll in 2009.

    Russ adds, “We’re still years away from able to even consider shutting down our presses, and the ink-stained wretch in me hopes we can figure out a way to sustain this centuries-old medium for several more centuries.”

    Hope that helps clarify. Let’s keep talking.
    – Andrew, @LATimesNystrom on Twitter
    social media guy in the LA Times / LATimes.com newsroom

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  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Amy,
    Jeesh. Copy editors never could take a joke. ;-)

  • http://thefesteringswamp.com/ Bradley J. Fikes

    That is excellent news, Andrew, and thank you for responding with it. Maybe journalism isn’t doomed after all!

  • http://www.fixionmedia.com/ Rob Cotter

    The web site of one of my clients reaches 1 million unique monthly visitors and earns 6-figures/year. And he’s writing about rock and heavy metal music. ONE GUY. The newsroom of the future is definitely on its way. I would simply encourage the big boys to hire compelling voices. Granted, I am referring here to a blogger but it wouldn’t take much time to groom more journalists out of the mess that is new media these days.

  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Howard Owens

    Just want to add a hail huzzah for my friends Tony Pierce and Meredith Artley for getting the public recognition they deserve from Mr. Stanton.

  • James H

    I was a copy editor for five years, and I never “waltzed in right after lunch.” More like “frantically edited and designed until deadline.”

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  • http://www.thepomoblog.com Terry Heaton

    Great step in the right direction. I love that the blog network is a key component of this. Covering the editorial side is a pretty big deal, but it’s still a long way to go. Congrats, LATimes.

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  • http://annbrocklehurstjournalism.blogspot.com AnnB

    This strikes me as very strange. We’ve been hearing forever that online advertising pays pennies to the paper dollar and now, suddenly, with no explanation — beyond something very vague about a data expert’s secret sauce — it looks as if everything’s going to be okay.

    Honestly, I would like to see the LA Times’ books because this sounds like something Bernie Madoff would cook up.

    It also reminds me a bit of when you used to sing About.com’s praises, which I notice hasn’t happened recently. You described them as the only bright spot on the NYT’s P and L statement. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for About.com, that seemed to me to be a good thing. After all, if a mediocre content producer like About.com could be more profitable than the NYT, just figure out its business model and presto, problem over

    When I looked into it a little further, I came to the conclusion that About.com’s profitability was largely due to its spammy, sploggy pages, which far outnumber its “content”pages. As a business strategy, that’s unsustainable, which is probably why we’re now hearing less about About.com’s successes.

    Anyway, colour me deeply sceptical about this LA Times news. I’d like to believe it but it just doesn’t seem to add up.

  • RubenR

    I’m w/Ann B.
    If the LA Times is making these public boasts it should release the relevant numbers so people can independently evaluate them. I’m skeptical of this “good news.,” and suspect like everything out ot Tribune lately it’s more smoke and mirrors.
    Tribune is a financial disaster of epic proportions. All the kings blogs and all the king’s “secret sauce” can’t put Zell’s kingdom back together again.

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    LA Times aside, how can their success be attempted in other markets, especially at papers where editors are essentially Luddites and have limited RSS feeds, no Twitter accounts, and zero desire to blog?

  • http://atelier.rfi.fr/profile/JeanBaptisteIngold JB Ingold

    45% are missing :)
    45% =100 – 15-50
    15% payroll of the on-line and print redaction
    50% printing cost

    It’s not sustainable.

    You can’t consider living on ads without marketing and sales-person + expenses ..

    LA Times have been very adamant to be national not a local. Being both and East and West Coast paper. The result is encouraging but far from reaching the scale it needed. Last result are quite bad. http://trends.google.com/websites?q=www.latimes.com&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

    Nothing to compare with NYT (in bad position) http://trends.google.com/websites?q=www.nytimes.com,www.latimes.com&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

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  • http://www.veredus.co.uk Interim Management Jobs

    Many a times, those, who do not actually do not work until midnight and only pretend so, are also found “waltz”ing in after lunch.

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