Leadership, will provide
Performance management: Addressing three critical problems at the Los Angeles Tribune
A decline in advertising revenue
A loss of advertising revenue is one of the most critical concerns for the Tribune, given that without advertising the paper cannot function in either the short or the long-term. Unfortunately, because fewer people are reading print newspapers, advertisers are shifting online to venues which offer larger audiences and which are often free. The paper must convey the unique value of advertising through the Tribune to advertisers, given its audience and general outreach (Chapter 3, 145).
In the short-term, calculating the needed increase in overall revenue is of paramount importance. In the long-term, given the likely trends regarding advertising in the newspaper world, the desire to advertise in print at all will likely evaporate. Instead of fighting these trends, the Tribune must grow its online advertising base. Offering a dynamic website presence with videos, additional story content, and features that attract web-surfers that might not normally be drawn to newspapers online, along with current print Tribune readers is extremely important.
Increasing website traffic means that advertisers will be more interested in the paper. However, metrics must be kept regarding website traffic, to make an effective case to advertisers that the Tribune is a worthy venue for them and will achieve their desired objectives. Most advertisers are interested in attracting younger audiences, which have more flexible buying habits and more disposable income. This demographic is more likely to be persuaded by Internet advertising, which is yet another reason why it is so important to expand the paper’s online presence.
A 40 readership
As a whole, readership of newspapers has begun to skew older and older. Younger people tend to consume the majority of their news content online from multiple sources, versus focusing on a single paper. This is problematic for a newspaper, given that its readership may simply become extinct over time. Also, an older readership is less attractive to advertisers. To attract a younger demographic, the newspaper must continue to bolster its online presence, ideally offering content more likely to be of interest to younger readers.
To make the online experience more engaging for younger readers, enhanced visual content (such as videos), extensive use of hyperlinks to provide more information about various topics, and offering subject matter uniquely relevant to the demographic is essential. Some newspapers have also shortened their stories when appropriate and simplified some of the vocabulary, to make it easier for young people reading their content via mobile phones and for the generally shortened attention span of millennials.
The Tribune can also offer uniquely local content, such as reviews of local nightclubs, restaurants, and theater, that is likely to be of interest to younger readers. Since the Tribune is a local paper, its primary justification for existence is to offer information of particular interest to residents of the city. Reporting from Los Angeles-centric perspective will make younger readers more interested in making the paper part of their steady literary ‘diet.’
Finally, younger readers are often attracted to the ‘social’ aspect of reading and ‘sharing’ online. Every news article must be able to be easily shared on the major social media site such as Facebook. Offering free discussion forums for readers enables readers to talk to one another and creates a community they are likely want to return to again and again.
Thus, the goals in relation to increasing younger readership must encompass how the paper is presented and the services offered by the Tribune, not simply editing the content, although this is important.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of slimming down the newspaper is the need for downsizing, or letting permanent workers go. Quite simply, there is unlikely to be adequate revenue to staff the paper at its current size. However, the tasks of the newspaper are ever-expanding, both in terms of its widening online content as well as attempting to improve its reporting.
Interns from local journalism schools can take up some of the ‘slack’ left by the reduced numbers of full-time staff. Given the competitive nature of the journalism field today, they are willing and able to work for the benefit of experience, in exchange for the ability to put that they worked for the Tribune on their resume. The availability of online telecommuting is useful, enabling the paper to contract more freelance writers to provide unique content to the newspaper. These contractors are cheaper, can be easily let go at a moment’s notice, and are not owed benefits like regular employees. Hiring contract workers enables the newspaper to tailor its labor costs more closely to the immediate needs of the environment.
When paring the number of employed staff, the areas that are targeted should be the ones which can most easily be replaced by interns, contract, and part-time staff, versus the ‘hard news’ team which focuses on breaking, serious news of a local nature — the type of news Los Angeles residents need when they access the Tribune for information, as opposed to entertainment. As well as setting goals to reduce employee cost, goals must also be set in terms of reallocating labor more effectively, based upon the holistic strategy of the Tribune.