Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

L.A. Times website sucks, L.A. Times reports

Posted on | February 7, 2007 | No Comments

Nothing more difficult than honest self-examination; nothing more brutal than to have it leak out to the world at large. That’s what happened at the L.A. Times, when an internal report on the site’s (apparently many) failings ended up posted at Media Bistro. I feel for these guys. We do these sorts of self-examinations frequently. And I’m weirdly happy that the memo got out because it shows that we’re not alone in these new-media challenges. Unfortunately, in the Times’ case bigger can create more of a problem (or that plus being owned by the totally alien Tribune Co. guys 2000 miles away). We’ve chronicled this saga several times in the past six months.
The New York Times is big too, but it’s wrestled with the digital demons for a long time, making mistakes along the way but persevering nevertheless.
So new LAT Editor Jim O’Shea came out last week with the news organization’s new strategy. Call it the “everybody in the boat now–hurry” strategem.
The next day Media Bistro posted its scoop. I think what got the original Spring Street Project members (who penned the internal report) was that one of their key recommendations, add staff, was ignored. In the do-more-with-less era, it’s hard to make a case to the publisher that you need a staff of 50 to run a great metro daily’s website. That dog won’t hunt.
And that’s because publisher’s know that web properties in the news bidness ain’t making money unless they’re run on a shoe string and leveraging “user content.”
Let’s be honest: in most cases “user content” is inconsistent at best; at worst it’s a total bullshit strategy. It says “I don’t care” about my site… it may work for restaurant review sites, travel sites and the like, but it doesn’t work in the news business.
Just ask the crew up north in Baghdad by the Bay. They’re driving dialogue themselves, with focus, determination and wit.

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