L.A. Times Attempting Suicide


MARCH 5, 2012


Today the Los Angeles Times is charging for visiting its site online. This is a suicide attempt that will severely damage the paper. Its parent company, Tribune Co., long has been in bankruptcy, running up $233 million in legal fees.

According to the Times’ own story:

“The Los Angeles Times will begin charging readers for access to its online news, joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue.

“Starting March 5, online readers will be asked to buy a digital subscription at an initial rate of 99 cents for four weeks. Readers who do not subscribe will be able to read 15 stories in a 30-day period for free. There will be no digital access charge for subscribers of the printed newspaper….

“Other news outlets that have begun charging for online journalism include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News. Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company, this week announced plans to launch a similar program at 80 publications, saying it could boost earnings by $100 million in 2013.”

They don’t get it. They still don’t get it.

Since 1994, when the first decent Web browser, Netscape, became available, the newspaper business model has been doomed. People now expect basic news to be free. They also don’t want to mess around with complicated log-ins and price plans for basic news.

Paid Sites

The Times cited The Wall Street Journal as making money on its paid site. They’re enticed by the subscription figures in the following graph, from The Awl. It shows newspaper circulation from 1990-2009. At the top is the success of the Journal.

The look at the yellow line, the L.A. Times, which has declined the fastest of all — a meteor downward. The circulation decline has continued, from about 625,000 in 2009 to 573,000 today.

The Journal’s model is succeeding because the Journal offers more than basic news: It offers specialty news, on finances. People will pay money to make money. The’ll also pay money for other specialty news, such as dating and game sites. That model also is working for the Financial Times, which specializes in international business news.

If you’re a bond trader making well into the six figures a year, paying for an FT or Journal subscription is chump change. It provides crucial information you use for your business. Those publications also provide large research files for checking out potential businesses to invest in. But that model doesn’t work for publications that provide news one can get elsewhere.

As to the New York Times, it lost $40 million last year. So why imitate their business model?

As to the Dallas Morning News, starting Feb. 15, it charged $33.95 a month for a subscription and full access to its online news. That’s $407.40 a year — in tough economic times. It’s obviously too early to tell if that’s going to work. But a newspaper that once was in the top 10 in circulation in the country now has dropped to 16th — even though Dallas and Texas have seen booming population in recent years.

According to the L.A. Times story, for LAT subscriptions:

“After the initial rate of 99 cents for the first four weeks, the rate will rise to $1.99 a week in a package that also includes the Sunday newspaper. Digital-only access will cost $3.99 a week.”

So, you pay half ($1.99) a week if you get the paper edition, which means they want the ads that pay for everything plopping on your doorstep every day. That’s $103.48 a year. But if you don’t the paper version — maybe the Times’ editorials have convinced you that killing all those trees adds to global warming — then you pay $3.99 a week, or $207.48 a year. It’s not going to work.

Two Problems

There are two problems with the Times. The first is that the newspaper industry continues to erode. This is unfortunate. I’ve been in the newspaper business for 27 years now, and I lament the passing of a great industry. I’ll always be a “newspaperman.” I still get home delivery of the daily printed Orange County Register, my old paper, and the Sunday Los Angeles Times. But that’s the reality.

I don’t know many people under 40 who subscribe to newspapers. This includes smart kids in graduate school. They do everything online.

The Times’ second problem is its grating liberalism. There’s seldom a vast new government program or gigantic tax increase that they don’t support. All of their five top columnists are obsessed with tax increases, as I have detailed on CalWatchDog.com.

And as my colleague Steven Greenhut wrote today, columnist Michael Hiltzik has defended the possibly criminal fraud eco-extremist Peter Gleick perpetrated against the Heartland Institute. Gleick himself has apologized. Yet Hiltzik wrote: “But it’s Heartland, which has tagged Gleick with the epithets above, that should be answering for its nearly three-decade history of corporate shilldom.”

So, Hiltzik says it’s OK for Gleick to perpetuate a fraud. And the Los Angeles Times employes Hiltzik. So why should I believe anything written in the Times?

As to Hiltzik’s charges against Heartland: It’s public knowledge where its funding comes from. And any think tank gets its money from sources favorable to its research. How does any of that justify fraud?


It’s also a good question how much money the L.A.Times will derive from this. Its article on the switch to paid online membership explained:

“[Media analyst Edward] Atorino said the New York Times has not sold digital subscriptions at the rate he expected. Most of the subscriptions it sells are highly discounted, diminishing the revenue gain, he said. The company does not break out its revenue for digital subscriptions.”

So no one has any idea if the main non-financial newspaper that switched to digital subscriptions actually is making money from it!

The article continues, quoting Kathy Thomson, president and chief operating officer of Los Angeles Times Media Group.:

“The Times won two Pulitzer Prizes last year, including the gold medal for public service for its coverage of corruption in the city of Bell.

“‘People are going to want to read our award-winning journalism’, Thomson said.”

People don’t care about Pulitzers and other awards. Anyway, 99 percent of the awards go to liberals. And why did it take the Times so long to report on the Bell corruption, which was going on for decades? How hard would it have been to notice that City Manager Robert Rizzo raked in $787,637 a year in salary, with 12 percent annual increases, guaranteed?

The fact is that the Times has been missing stories for years.

And whenever it does break something, its articles quickly are cross-posted to other Web sites, including newspapers that carry the Times’ news service. So, in the end, there’s no need to pay for its stories.

A better model is that of the Orange County Register, which is building up strong online loyalty, for example for their reporting on the Angels baseball team, which has a nationwide following. If you go to that site, the ads are not just local, but national and for Southern California.

Information wants to be free” is a slogan of techno-anarchists. The Times is going to find that out — the hard way.






Write a comment
  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 13:23

    😀 😀 😀 😀

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. This is probably the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

    The LA Times execs must have manure for brains.

    To pull this stunt they have to be on the verge of bankrupcy.

    I wouldn’t pay a plug nickle to read articles from any news publication on-line.

    Reply this comment
  2. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 13:55

    “A better model is that of the Orange County Register, which is building up strong online loyalty, for example for their reporting on the Angels baseball team, which has a nationwide following”

    The Register is really out of touch with the conservative population that lives within their region. They too have gone though a bankrupcy. The news reporters are slanted to the far left on subjects like illegal immigration, teachers unions, etc… IMO the reason they lost so many subscribers (like me) is because their publication no longer represents the values of the Orange County citizens. The news articles seem to be biased in favor of big governement. The Watchdog does a pretty good job on most topics – but the overall paper is a rag. That’s why I cancelled. No doubt there are thousands more just like me. It’s hard enough to survive as a newspaper in 2012 but when you start promoting liberal causes in a conservative county you’re just screwing yourself.

    Reply this comment
  3. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 5 March, 2012, 18:14

    The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER is a left-wing publication?????? Now I have heard everything.

    As to the LA Times, what they are doing is just an example of good old “free enterprise” at work, right? How come John doesn’t get his panties in a wad when Bank of America lays these outrageous fees on people for “free” checking and using your debit card? Oh, I forgot, the LA Times is “liberal” and BofA ain’t.

    Reply this comment
  4. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 20:45

    “The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER is a left-wing publication?????? Now I have heard everything”

    The OC Register news reporters are left of center on illegal immigration and on public unions. The news reporters are constantly writing tear jerker articles in favor of public school teachers and illegal aliens. That is not my opinion. That is a FACT. As I said, the WatchDog blog in the OC Register does a good job at exposing the enormous pay and benefits given to public workers. But the WatchDog has never done an article documenting the financial and social damage that illegal immigration has imposed upon OC and the rest of SoCal. They have been completely silent on that issue.

    I contend that the left of center content in the OC news section has driven away many thousands of OC residents from the OC Register. The management needs to wake up and get in touch with the values of the OC community. Mostly, we want the newspaper to report FACTS and stop leaning to the left.

    Reply this comment
  5. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 5 March, 2012, 21:41

    My son is just out of college and reports that he and his friends, who are news media and political junkies, scan daily headlines online and then click on stories that interest them. They don’t read daily newspapers, even though most of them grew up reading or watching parents read newspapers.

    – Katy

    Reply this comment
  6. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 22:47

    I just read an article that claims strong rumors that the owner of the San Diego Union Tribune is negotiating for the purchase of the OC Register.

    I don’t think the OC Register would consider selling the business unless their post bankrupcy makeover was in big big trouble. But that what happens when you promote left of center liberalism in a conservative county. It’s not rocket science.

    I don’t know much about the Union Tribune – but if their owner intends to restore factual and conservative reporting to the OC Register then I am all for the buyout and hope it happens ASAP.

    Reply this comment
  7. Jeff Gallagher
    Jeff Gallagher 5 March, 2012, 22:52

    That’s true for most of us Katy. Why thumb through the OCR when you can get it better and faster on the web? I would rather readvyours or Steves articles, understanding the bias, than pay OCR or LAT for their “premium” content any day. The OCR recently sent me a letter saying I had a credit and they would deliver the paper to me for the next few months free of charge then bill me for future deliveries. I called them to say thanks but no thanks. The only thing that paper does is line my bird cage. Newspapers are obsolete and the websites they have created are nightmares to navigate. Good luck with that business model.

    Reply this comment
  8. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 23:17

    “The only thing that paper does is line my bird cage”

    As a citizen in American society I always felt it was my civic duty to support my local newspaper. And up until about 3 years ago I subscribed to the OCR. I just got fed up with the left of center news reporters who failed to honestly report facts about critical issues that really impact our lives. Newspapers are supposed to protect us from tyranny – not encourage it by failing to address those really destructive critical issues. I thought long and hard before I cancelled my long term subscription but once I did it I never looked back. When huge gaping holes exist in the news reports something is terribly wrong.

    Reply this comment
  9. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 6 March, 2012, 11:31

    “I just read an article that claims strong rumors that the owner of the San Diego Union Tribune is negotiating for the purchase of the OC Register.”

    Oh, great, that’s just what we need. Our own Rupert Murdoch in SoCal 🙁

    Reply this comment
  10. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 6 March, 2012, 11:33

    Really surprised at you, Beelzebub. All you had to do was turn the page of the OC Register to the editorials and columnists. You’d find enough right-wing material on those pages to satisfy anyone.

    Reply this comment
  11. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 6 March, 2012, 12:03

    “Really surprised at you, Beelzebub. All you had to do was turn the page of the OC Register to the editorials and columnists. You’d find enough right-wing material on those pages to satisfy anyone”

    Few people read editorials or opinion pages, stevefromsacto. Most just read the news. That is where they get their information. And much of the news in the OCR is left of center. If you don’t believe me read it sometime.

    Reply this comment
  12. Eric in SR
    Eric in SR 6 March, 2012, 12:22

    I would advise dropping my subscription to the Sunday LA Times and just make a weekly visit to your nearest public library where you can read it there!

    Reply this comment
  13. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 6 March, 2012, 12:25

    Beelzebub wrote,Few people read editorials or opinion pages, stevefromsacto. .

    I’ve heard that the opinion pages are the most read section of any paper.

    Jeff wrote, Why thumb through the OCR when you can get it better and faster on the web?.

    I think that’s the crux of the matter. More and more people read news only online and most expect it to be free. How they expect news organizations and reporters to provide the news for free is beyond me.

    Reply this comment
  14. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 6 March, 2012, 14:17

    “I’ve heard that the opinion pages are the most read section of any paper”

    Who did you hear that from? An editorialist? It’s not true.

    Reply this comment
  15. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 6 March, 2012, 14:23

    Don’t recall but, whoever (or wherever) it was, I deemed it credible enough to believe. Most folks I know tend to read the letters- to- the- editor, at the very least.

    Reply this comment
  16. OC Native
    OC Native 6 March, 2012, 19:27

    Beelzebub – I agree with you. The articles the the first section are generally pretty left leaning. However, I get my weekly fill in the sunday rag of the truth out there. You have the Editorials, Mark Steyn, Greenhut, Landsbaum and others. My favorites are the Cartoons because they hit the mark and lampoon the left so eloquently.

    One part I do have to question is some of the guest column writers and a good number of the rebuttal people. But it just goes to show you that liberals like to read the truth in the editorial section of the OC Register, even though they are steaming out of ears as they are reading.

    Reply this comment
  17. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 6 March, 2012, 22:25

    I just read an article that the OCR just dumped reporter Yvette Cabrera and 9 other unnamed reporters. Getting rid of Cabrera might be one of the best business decisions that OCR has ever made. As a matter of fact it might even convince me to restore my OCR subscription. Stay tuned.

    But this could indicate more financial trouble at the OCR – so now the rumors of a buyout are starting to make more sense.

    My advice to the CEO: When you report news in a conservative county don’t do it with a liberal twist.

    Reply this comment
  18. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 7 March, 2012, 13:10

    See, I’ll tell you why the newspaper media has been so silent on the massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the TBTF financial institutions. The banks basically OWN the newspapers. The newspapers rely on the big bank loans to get through another day of business and if the banks ever refused to roll those loans over it would result in instant bankrupcy. And since the government and the financial institutions have merged their powers to control every aspect of American life – the newspapers are very hesitant to criticize the government in 2012. So the media has stopped investigating big government and the financial system. That is why you haven’t seen any decent investigative reporting from the big publications in the midst of the financial meltdown. That firewall no longer exists. The Pentagon Papers and Watergate investigations are for the history books. You will never see such investigative reporting again.

    Reply this comment
  19. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 7 March, 2012, 20:54

    I just read an article that the OCR just dumped reporter Yvette Cabrera and 9 other unnamed reporters.

    WOW That is great news. Yvette “The illegal is never wrong” Cabrera was poisonous.

    Too bad. She’s an excellent writer, and has potential to be an excellent reporter. But on the flip side, her biases and prejudices are unmatched. If she can ever temper those she’ll be a star. But it’s probably like asking a leopard to change its spots.

    Reply this comment
  20. ageofknowledge
    ageofknowledge 7 March, 2012, 21:06

    Maybe it’s a good thing. They are radically left and the left doesn’t buy newspapers (except for the wealthy liberal snobs). Might force them to change out their staff with some more realistic journalists that don’t preach amnesty and sanctuary cities are the way to America’s recovery.

    Reply this comment
  21. Bradley J. Fikes
    Bradley J. Fikes 9 March, 2012, 07:36

    Online charging just might work for the LA Times to preserve it in some limited fashion. Lefties enjoy having their biases validated by a putatively objective newspaper, especially those who pretend to be moderates. They may well decide to pay online to keep their bubble intact.

    IOW, the LAT may had adopted a marketing strategy to survive as a purveyor of ideological comfort food.

    Reply this comment
  22. Westie
    Westie 10 March, 2012, 07:20

    I can’t see the Wall Street Journal on that graph….Patterico has it!

    Reply this comment

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