LA Times Unveils New Web Strategy

Los Angeles Times editor James O'Shea Wednesday outlined a new model for the newspaper's reporting with the Internet at its center.

"Latimes.com will become our primary vehicle for breaking news 24 hours a day," O'Shea told staff in a meeting at the company's auditorium. A printed version of his address was posted on LATimes.com Wednesday afternoon.

O'Shea's plan calls for a total integration of the print and online reporting teams, which were previously separate, with the LATimes.com Web site maintained by just 18 full-time employees. To facilitate the flow of content to the Web site, O'Shea is also implementing a mandatory "crash course" in Web journalism under the direction of Russ Stanton--previously the business editor, named by O'Shea to the newly appointed post of "innovation editor."

By constantly updating the Web site with breaking news, O'Shea said he hopes to make the online paper competitive against online news aggregators: "We can't hide from the fact that smart competitors such as Google and Craigslist are stealing readers and advertisers from us." To beat these giants, O'Shea said the paper must become a "relentless, powerful story-telling machine online and in print."

O'Shea warned that the paper had fallen "woefully behind" in the shift to online journalism. "As an organization and a business, we are in a fight to recoup threatened revenue that finances our news-gathering," O'Shea said.

He used auto advertising as an example to sketch the revenue crunch created by the shift from print to online advertising. "In 2004, automotive print advertising at the Los Angeles Times totaled $102 million. And what will it be this year? $55 million." While the company made up some of the difference in Web ads, O'Shea said the paper was losing more in print ads than it was recouping online.

In contrast to the Web site's breaking news, O'Shea said the print edition will strike a more thoughtful pose, becoming a vehicle for "tightly-written context, analysis, interpretation and expertise." O'Shea's address was prompted by the conclusions of an expert review committee appointed by Dean Baquet, the Times' previous editor. Baquet was forced out in November by the Tribune Co., the paper's owner, for refusing to cut the newsroom staff.