Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can This Be True?

Guardian, UK

History in the making
in LA as online ads
hit target

By Jeff Jarvis

Note well this moment in the history - and I do mean history - of newspapers: the editor of the Los Angeles Times, Russ Stanton, said the paper's online advertising revenue is now sufficient to cover the Times's entire editorial payroll, print and online. "Given where we were five years ago, I don't think anyone thought that would ever happen," he said in email. "But that day is here." The same day has arrived for at least one more major US newspaper. What this tells me is that we are on the cusp of the moment when online revenue could sustain a substantial digital journalistic enterprise without the onerous cost of printing and distribution. Hallelujah.

There are caveats aplenty: 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).

Still, work with me here: imagine if the Times turned off its presses tomorrow. I've discussed that prospect before, going back to 2005, when Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger acknowledged that his new Berliner presses might be the last this paper would use. But the talk was speculative. Now it could be real: the paperless paper.

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