Monday, January 12, 2009

A Copy Editor Should Never Assume

In a previous post I noted incredulity that the L.A. Times could be covering Web and print editorial costs from online revenue only. I said, surely this is a copy editing error, surely they meant online only costs.

Well, apparently not. As noted here, -- yes, by Jeff Jarvis -- the L.A. Times apparently can cover the payroll costs of 660 newsroom workers totally off online revenue.

Let's just assume that each worker comes attached to $100,000 in pay and benefits. That means that the L.A. Times pulled in $66 million last year in online revenue. By contrast, all the newspapers in the McClatchy group reported in October that they had $16.4 million in online revenue. That was a down month, but probably better than some of the summer; let's just assume that they have $16.4 million a month in online revenue. That would be $198 million in online revenue. That would mean that in the McClatchy company, the jobs of 1,980 newsroom workers would be covered by online revenue, assuming each was tied to $100,000 in compensation -- but I suspect the number for McClatchy is much lower. Using the old 1-per-thousand rule, McClatchy would have about 2,500 editorial employees. So there you go. If McClatchy fell down to, oh, 2,100 editorial jobs, they would all be covered out of online revenue.

If I remember, newsroom costs are 10 to 11 percent of total newspaper expenditures, or were before 2006. If you get online revenue to 10 percent, clearly you cover it. As Doug Fisher notes, none of this covers the cost of your ad and business staffs, real estate, promotion, etc., and some of it still has to be pass-through revenue. But the Times seems to have found an online lease on editorial life. And how has it done it? Blogs. Perhaps the Times is making the breakthrough in showing how the problem with newspapers on the Web is that the newspaper's style of writing and reporting does not work as well in an atmosphere of immediacy.

In any event, well, my previous post was wrong, and stupid, and I eat crow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David --

A small clarification -- in a comment to an earlier Jeff Jarvis post (, LAT social media producer Andrew Nystrom included this e-mail quote from LAT editor Russ Stanton: “Our digital revenue this year will be equal to our newsroom payroll (web and print) and that is salaries only.”

So that web revenue figure, which is for 2008, doesn't cover total payroll costs, which include benefits.

Nystrom went on to predict that 2009 digital revenue would "exceed total newsroom payroll."