Posted by: Jon Fine on January 29, 2007
I actually like the Los Angeles Times, but I admit I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to its Web site.
An internal committee has, though, and unlike most internal committees, they are decidedly unsparing in their assessment. Mediabistro’s FishbowlLA (once and future disclaimer: my wife is mediabistro’s founder-CEO) has said committee’s lengthy, self-flaggelating exegesis here.
The website’s own research demonstrates that latimes.com is virtually invisible in greater Los Angeles.
By some measures, the site is losing traction even faster than the newspaper. Latimes.com reports that traffic is growing and has reached 5.1 million unique visitors and 73 million total page views per month. But ComScore Media Metrix, an independent traffic monitor that uses an array of indicators, says overall traffic to the site dropped 9% in September, compared with the same month a year earlier.
Visits to nytimes.com were up 10%, at Yahoo News 15%, at AOL News 11%. Overall, traffic to news sites grew an average of 4%, according to ComScore.
The home page is visually unappealing and difficult to navigate. Search results are often off-target, and the site fundamentally fails to meet the needs of visitors. Consequently, time spent at latimes.com — a key measure of traffic quality — is dropping rapidly and is now among the lowest of all news sites. As measured by ComScore, the average length of a visit to the website — 11.9 minutes — is less than half what it is at Yahoo News or nytimes.com and one-third what it is at CNN.com or MSNBC.
How can this be? Why does one of the nation’s leading newspapers have such a feeble online presence?
On the Web, if you are not first in posting a story, you don’t exist. We are rarely first. One recent morning, a hay truck caught fire on the Hollywood Freeway and sent thick black smoke billowing into the sky. Trapped commuters who saw only the plume thought it might have been the work of terrorists. Nothing appeared on our website throughout the day. In fact, we told our readers nothing of the incident until the following morning.
You get the idea.
Somehow, though, I doubt this is a good time to ask for funding from Tribune.