This could be a precursor of events to come, or just apples and oranges.
As Gannett’s seven daily newspapers in New Jersey bet the farm on increased digital subscription revenues, the Los Angeles times yesterday admitted that a nearly identical strategy is failing them so far.
The newspaper had set a goal of doubling their digital subscribers from 150,000 to 300,000 this year to cover its editorial costs but only added 13,000 more in the first six months of the year, according to an internal memo obtained by Poynter’s Tom Jones.
The Times’ editors said they experienced “significant cancellations during the same stretch.”
“Our future depends on rapid and substantial subscription revenue growth,” Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine and Managing Editor Scott Kraft told their staff. “Digital conversions are our top priority between now and the end of the year.”
The message from the Los Angeles Times is similar to what staff at The (Bergen) Record, the Asbury Park Press and Gannett’s other five New Jersey dailies have been told.
Pearlstine and Kraft said that the newspaper “cannot meet our readers’ high expectations without close collaboration with our business and IT colleagues.”
“We need to be looking to convert more subscribers in everything we do, from beat reporting and features to photography, digital design, headline writing and copy editing,” the LA Times memo said . “All of us must engage in continuous conversation and reflection about what is working and what is not. We need to agree on projects requiring more attention and, equally important, we need to determine what can be dropped.
Jones noted that that a decision to bring back the newspaper’s food section has not netted the increased subscriptions the Times had hoped for.
On July 16, the Bergen Record announced that it was reducing the number of news stories available online to non-subscribers. The newspaper has also reduced the number of free stories available on their website from ten per month to seven.
The other Gannett papers did the same thing.
The Record has lost 71% of their print newspaper subscribers since Gannett purchased the newspaper from the family of Malcolm Borg in 2016. Gannett has laid off about 200 journalists in New Jersey over the last two years.
In January, The Record laid off six reporters after nine others accepted a buyout.
In addition to the Bergen Record and the Asbury Park Press, Gannett owns the Herald News, the Courier-News, the Home New Tribune, the Courier-Post and the Daily Journal.
Earlier this year, Gannett shareholders rejected a hostile takeover bid from Digital First Media, the owner of the Trentonian.
The Los Angeles Times has won more than 40 Pulitzer Prizes, voted to unionize in early 2018, and was sold to a prominent philanthropist.