The Buzz Machine himself, Jeff Jarvis, writes for the Guardian UK to report that Russ Stanton, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, has said the newspaper’s online advertising revenue “is now sufficient to cover the Times’s entire editorial payroll, print and online.” Jarvis says an historic milestone has been reached.
… the LA Times newsroom got to this point because it was cut to a shell of its former self (from 1,200 staff to 660). Online advertising is often sold in packages with print (though if and when print disappears, marketers will have little choice but to shift to digital). And news organisations carry costs besides payroll, such as rent (though some papers are now making their newsrooms virtual)
Always the caveats. But Jarvis sees hope (hope!) and imagines the news business as a growth industry once more. Much more here.
But Stanton’s claim doesn’t withstand casual scrutiny for anyone familiar with the economics of online-only publications. The LAT newsroom, even after considerable cuts, still houses 660 people. And yet, in December, according to the newpaper’s own figures, its website only generated 120 million pageviews. At that rate, that’s 2.2 million pageviews per employee per year. One Gawker Media blogger, in a much-cited example, did double that figure in a month.
And fishiest of all, Jarvis’s scenario doesn’t include any expense for actually selling those ads. Do Stanton and Jarvis think ads, online or off, get magically sold through the simple grandeur of the wordsmithing to which they’re attached?
Perhaps the Tribune Co., the publisher of the Times, is phenomenally good at running its business, but I doubt that, since it recently filed for bankruptcy. More likely: Stanton is engaging in wishful accounting. And since Stanton’s tale suits Jarvis’s needs, he’s reprinting it without applying a media critic’s needed skepticism.