Hot on the heels of the Tribune Company’s beginning the bankruptcy protection procedure, the Annenberg School of Communications website reports that Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton has said that the paper’s online revenue now exceeds the paper’s editorial payroll costs (third paragraph, last sentence). This is being widely noted (most links go to this Recovering Journalist post), and Jeff Jarvis has some followup with numbers.
This seems like good news, and hopefully more papers can soon make the same claim. I’m worried, though, like one commenter on Recovering Journalist, that the good news has come after at least 523 layoffs at the paper this year (Papercuts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Getting the website to cover payroll is likely much easier with 500+ fewer employees. And while I don’t have numbers to back this up, a newspaper requires a lot more money than its payroll in order to operate. There’s continual equipment and material fees, legal fees, and many other expenses involved in putting out the news. The New York Times, for instance, has it’s own Research and Development Group (and here’s a great tour through the facilities with Talking Heads front man David Byrne), which has got to be expensive to operate but which is necessary to forge ahead in the new media environment. Covering the payroll is a part of the picture, and it’s a great step, but in order for newspaper journalism to continue either in print or online, the companies will need more money.