Most of O'Shea's criticisms went to the Times' Web effort. "If anything, we are Web-stupid," he concluded from reading the results of an internal analysis of the newspaper's operations, as anybody knew who watched the paper wrestle, years ago, whether to charge a subscription fee for access to its entertainment section, CalendarLive. Arguably a bone-headed move from the start, it surely was a harbinger of things to come.
Here’s what’s coming now for the newspaper:
- The LATimes.com staff and newspaper staff will work in one newsroom.
- The Times' will follow the leaders in reducing page size.
- The newspaper will get a redesign that "challenges every section."
- Reporters will be taught how to file stories on the Web. (This suggests a denial of reality. Did they think the Web was a fad?)
While all that's going on, O’Shea’s new plans suggest the seed of an idea that could blossom. Not a big bloom, but one that draws readers and advertisers the way $10 buffets draw people to Las Vegas.
Quietly mentioned in his remarks to the troops were the words "hyper local."A few communities will become the test kitchens for an online recipe of content to include community calendars, crime statistics, school test scores and neighborhood discussion boards, O'Shea told his own newspaper in an interview. This doesn't mean lots of reporters will camp out at the neighborhood Starbucks. The information, O’Shea said, should be available to the paper at little cost.
That's just the kind of information that people living in a big city find attractive, says Mike Orren, the founder of Dallas-Fort Worth's local news site, PegasusNews.com. "On the local level at least, data is what drives visitors ... more than 75% of our traffic is data – interactive calendar listings, band profiles, restaurant listings, political campaign contributions, drink specials and the like," he wrote in a column called Lessons from the Launch. "Most of our listings aren’t found on the other local city guides – something for both traditional media and upstarts alike to think about."
Sounds like the LA Times is thinking about that kind of information. So is the Washington Post. That big city paper is reaching out to bloggers in the capital. The Post reportedly plans to mine local Web logs. Its staff will sell advertisements which appear in their posts and the paper and the bloggers will share the revenue.
Finally, there is an appetite for the kind of extreme coverage the Times is testing. Placeblogger.com, a site which points to local blogs, lists 151 of them in California, nearly 50% more than any other state. Los Angeles has 25.
The mess at the Los Angeles Times is in suggests there is lots of blame to go around, generously spread in both L.A. and Chicago. The Times' internal report about the sorry state of its Web effort laments squabbling between Los Angeles and the home office. It sure sounds like management at the Tribune in Chicago, the city of 'make no little plans', had no plan.