The LA Times is one of the most influential papers in the nation; founded in 1881, the newspaper has a reputation for delivering hard-hitting news, engaging editorial cartooning, and in-depth reporting. The winner of 38 Pulitzer Prizes, including five gold medals for customer service, the Times holds the second-highest yearly total for the number of Pulitzers won in a single year - in 2004, it won five.
Are Newspapers Dying? The LA Times is Too Busy Blogging to Worry
That print newspapers are in a state of flux is certainly not news - but the strategies publishers are taking to change course and maximize their strengths is a study in ingenuity and forward thinking.
Despite its reputation as one of the foremost newspapers in the country, the LA Times has not been immune to the decline in newspaper subscriptions and shifting advertising dollars that have affected publishers everywhere. But you won't hear whining in this news room; the LA Times is parlaying their considerable strengths into creating a dynamic and broad-ranging blog network.
"We have so much going for us," says Tony Pierce, Blog Editor for the LA Times. "We've built incredible relationships over the years, and we have so much better access than most other bloggers, including other newspapers, that there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to create phenomenal blog content."
He further explains: "When Coachella announces their lineup, they call us before they publish it. When the Dodgers announce their lineup, Manny Ramirez calls us. We get the scoop first."
The LA Times chose TypePad Business Class to host their blog platform, because it was reliable and easy to use, and integrated well with their existing platform. "We tried a couple of Wordpress blogs, but they didn't work as well," he reports. "TypePad was far more reliable."
The newspaper has embraced the blog format wholeheartedly, with over three dozen blogs thus far that cover a range of topics, from the arts scene to environmental news to SoCal street fashion. "It's one thing to be tell the story of murder and mayhem," says Tony, "but to be able to expand on that and enable great writers to write about more "fringe" topics that previously weren't deemed newsworthy - that's really exciting."
Over the past year, the Times' network of blogs has quadrupled their page views; in February, the blogs hit an all-time high of 17 million page views. "And that was during the shortest month!" Tony chuckles. "The only things happening were the Chris Brown story and Octomom, but we killed it."
The newspaper has ambitious plans for the blog network, believing that over the course of the next five years, more than half of the traffic to the LA Times website will be on the blogs. "We don't care if people forget that they're on an LA Times blog," Tony says. "We just want them to love the content and keep coming back."
Blogs that Stray From the Usual Beat - with Great Results
One reason the LA Times blogs have been so successful is that they haven't tried to be digital versions of the print newspaper. "We're giving writers a platform on which they can excel and do things differently," explains Tony. "Our journalists are defying the myth that journalists can't be bloggers - they're embracing the format and loving it."
Patrick Goldstein has been with the Times since 1979; for many years, he was a film writer for the Calendar section and a contributing writer to other sections of the paper. His columns used to come out twice a week; now he posts several times a week on The Big Picture Blog. "He's an old-school newspaper journalist, but he took to blogging quickly and easily," Tony says.
Other writers have found new creative inspiration in the blog format. Such was the case with Geoff Bucher, an LA Times reporter who covers the Hollywood beat. On any given day, Geoff might get a call from Martin Scorsese or board a plane for an impromptu interview with Beyonce. But away from the glitterati, Geoff harbored another passion: comic books and action heroes.
"Geoff has always been fascinated with comic books," says Tony. "He had an idea to create a comic blog, and so we developed Hero Complex." The Hero Complex covers everything from comic book news to Battlestar Galactica to action-hero inspired movies like the Watchmen. "It's purely a joy for Geoff, and our readers love it," Tony reports. "It's been one of our top 10 blogs from the very start."
Another reason the LA Times loves the blog format? Comments. The comment section gives editors the ability to take the pulse of their readers and post about topics that readers are interested in. During the furor over Chris Brown and Rihanna in February 2009, the editors noticed that a lot of the readers were defending Chris Brown. They created a follow-up story asking if Rihanna should forgive Chris - the story was #1 in the Google search results for days, and resulted in a lively discussion on the blog.
Says Tony: "TypePad gives us the opportunity to continue the conversation and create even more interesting content."
Check out these LATimes Blogs
- The Big Picture - entertainment, media and pop culture
- The Dish Rag - gossip & celebrity culture
- The Daily Mirror - a fascinating tour through LA history
- To Live and Buy in LA - shopping tips and trends
- Laker's Blog - all things related to the purple and gold
- Hero Complex - comic books and action heroes