Los Angeles Times Embraces the Digital Divide

The Minions and four staff moves highlight reality that print is limping into the sunset.

These are interesting times at the West Coast flagship newspaper. Over the weekend, there was much discussion about the fact that the paper had auctioned off its Sunday front page nameplate (as well as inside section portions) to Universal Pictures’ Minions. Even more interesting to FishbowlNY was this assertion in the coverage by Kevin Roderick’s LAObserved:

The ad inventory in the print paper some days is just unbelievably thin. In the colony of current and past LAT staffers, a lot of heads were shaking when an A section a couple of months ago dropped below 12 pages for the first time that anyone could remember. On some days, most of the ads in the Los Angeles Times appear to be unpaid house ads.

“I’ve been keeping informal track and the LAT’s biggest advertiser now is — the LAT,” a former senior editor told me recently. In a recent print paper, the editor observed, there were 42 pages and 27 house ads. “That’s stunning and unsustainable.”

Echoing the increasing importance of the digital side, the paper today has announced a promotion and three additions to its audience engagement team. All will report to Alexandra Manzano. From today’s memo by managing editor S. Mitra Kalita:

This will no longer be a team that only tweets or posts to Facebook. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are simply one component of our strategy to build readership. For our stories to “do better on social,” we must think about audience and shareability at the outset. Our new colleagues will work across the newsroom to guide experimental storytelling, story selection, distribution and partnerships, and conversations with and among Times readers.

Michelle Maltais [@mmaltaisLA] becomes deputy director for audience engagement. Together, she and Ali will develop strategies that strengthen The Times’ connection to community and conversation. She’ll also help train staff around the newsroom on new tools and techniques, and resuscitate efforts around our coverage of parenting. Michelle started with the Times in 1996. She has been an award-winning copy editor, multimedia producer, web deputy, the newsroom’s first broadcast manager, a tech blogger and a reader engagement emissary. She earned her bachelor’s from Scripps College and a master’s in journalism from Columbia and is a proud graduate of the Metpro copy editing program. Michelle and her husband live in Baldwin Vista with their two kids, who are already huge fans of the LA Times and Star Wars.

Dexter Thomas [@dexdigi] joins us today to cover Black Twitter (which really is so much more complicated than that). He will work closely with the newsroom and #EmergingUS to find communities online (Black Medium to Latino Tumblr to Line in Japan) and both create stories with and pull stories from those worlds. Dexter is from San Bernardino and is a doctoral candidate in East Asian studies at Cornell University. He has taught media studies and Japanese and is writing a book about Japanese hip-hop. He began working in digital media at UC Riverside as a student director of programming at KUCR-FM (88.3), independently producing podcasts, music and news programs. He writes regularly on social justice, Internet and youth culture, and video games.

Annie Yu [@AnnieZYu] arrived recently as a producer. She will help define the voice of the LA Times and infuse shareability into our journalism through creative storytelling and packaging. Annie joins us after working at ProPublica in New York City as an audience engagement fellow. This video she created became ProPublica’s most successful piece of Facebook content ever. Before that, Annie reported on city hall for the Arizona Republic and local news for the Orange County Register. She is a Bay Area native and graduated from Azusa Pacific University, where she served as editor in chief of the newspaper.

Lisa Biagiotti [@lisabiagiotti] joins us July 13 in a role straddling video and social. She will work closely with our photo, video, social, RealTime and Metro desks to help make multimedia offerings newsy, creative and shareable. Lisa, a New Jersey native who has been in L.A. for two years, has been an independent journalist and filmmaker. She was an inaugural Sundance New Frontier artist in residence at the MIT Media Lab. Lisa is the director-producer of “deepsouth” (2014), an award-winning documentary about poverty, HIV and LGBTQ issues in the rural American South. Lisa has produced work for the New Yorker, the Atlantic, The Times, PBS and NPR, among other media platforms. Her work in eastern Congo won the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for International Television. In 2001, she received a Fulbright Award to research Italian colonialism in Africa and Muslim immigration patterns throughout Europe. Lisa holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

It all points to the fact that with each passing day, the Los Angeles Times is less a newspaper and more a website. Extra, extra, click all about it!
[Image: Gil C/Shutterstock.com]