Jason Oberfest, head of Product Strategy and Business Development at the Los Angeles Times reveals how they are working on building a content business in a digital era.
- The LA Times, a paper with a weekly circulation of 3.6 million and 5-11 million unique monthly visitors to its website, still faces the issue of establishing itself as a dynamic online go-to source, as almost all papers do: “Newspapers are in an interesting time trying to reinvent themselves online – and there is a lot to be done. The fundamental issue is that engagement on the site is lower than it should be – and it’s flat.”
- LA Times’ problem was not in how its readers felt about the brand (“Across the board in terms of neighborhood, ethnicity, education – any way you slice it, virtually all segments had very strong positive feelings for the brand….”); the challenge that became clear was that despite the strength of the brand – online people were not loyal to the site, and they were fairly random in their use of it. So we knew we had a really big issue to tackle.”
- “The site is essentially invisible online. A lot of our traffic comes from clicks off of aggregator sites… A lot of people click through and may or may not have been aware they were on our site. and we clearly needed to change that paradigm. how do we convert random and non-users of the site into regular, loyal online readers users – that was our mission.”
- ” The first thing that was really clear to us is that newspaper articles online frankly just dont cut it. And that’s the business had viewed themselves of recreating the newspaper online. We knew we had to change that paradigm -we had to build a more functional product, a more utility oriented product.”
- “We recognized the extent of the local opportunity… There are many categories of news and information where a one-size fits all approach to developing products works ok (like classifieds). But there are other categories that are more complicated where that approach which most national product companies have to take – doesn’t work. For example, if you think about researching a long drive to Mexico and you go to Trip Advisor and there’s nothing really there… none of those things seem to be covered. That’s where we have an advantage, and we’re lucky in that LA is big enough market we can afford to invest in that really heavily to make that work. ” we also picked a few big categories and go really hard at them – like entertainment, autos, environment, immigration. we have the opportunity to pick a few national battles and really go for them.”
- “Content aggregation is as important as content creation. For a newspaper, thats a pretty controversial thing to say, … but I do believe it. There is so much media out there now that helping people make sense of it all is a really valuable thing. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop producing original content, but we have to recognize the importance of that.”