Rob is walking through the dramatic change went through over the past year and how they have gone more hyperlocal and more Web2.0 while improving the editorial. They started with their Travel section which they rebuilt entirely in Ruby on Rails then they attacked their Entertainment section, including The Envelope, and added a local directory.

Full Disclosure: While I was no means the architect of the strategy, I should disclose that I advised the LATimes on SEO while they were going through these changes.

Some interesting notes:

1. Their Travel section traffic is up 400% since relaunch

2. By adding a “Topics” section to their Entertainment section they added an incremental 3.5 million visits to their site with almost no incremental cost.

They used a pilot model to test new content ideas one of which is which offers behind-the-scenes photos of film shoots. They are also using their online content to help add new pages and content to the print product.

Total UVs up 31%

Total PVs up 25%

Photo Gallery PVs up 57%

Blog PVs up 90%

Total usage minutes up 31.6% in Q1 and up 59.4% since Jan 07

24+ usage minutes per Unique Visitor in Mar 08

They have added more interactive features using local data and technology like Google Maps – They now have a LA County Homicide Map and blog. During the Malibu Fires last year their fire map was the top viewed Google Map. The Homicide Map, while depressing, is very cool so check it out.

Missed Connections: marrying video and maps to make it easier and more fun to socialize.

Ultimately the home page will reflect more of a personalized, localized strategy.

Within the next few years the LATimes is planning that the majority of its revenue will be from online so improving the product is the highest priority at the moment.

Within one month the print and web editorial staffs will be merged into one.

In sum from my vantage point The LATimes has aggressively embraced the challenges of the digital age.  They still have a long way to go and the path is precarious but I like their attitude and where they are heading.

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