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Offsite audience drives latimes.com growth in November

January 3, 2012 |  2:22 pm

A memo to the staff from Managing Editor/Online Jimmy Orr and Senior Vice President/Digital Emily Smith:

New Year’s resolution No. 1:  Send monthly note out earlier (this note is for November).  Yikes. But November was a great month.  So let’s recap it.  We continued to break new ground in real-time reporting for the benefit of our Southern California readers.  Our audience grew by 13.5% year over year, according to ComScore.  For those keeping count, this makes nine consecutive months of double-digit growth (ComScore).

Where did SoCal go for live, round-the-clock coverage of the eviction of Occupy L.A. protesters?  L.A. Now.  Through photos, livestreaming video, and reporter tweets, our dynamic, real-time coverage placed readers in the center of the action on City Hall grounds.  (Samples: @katelinthicum: “Clergy were escorted in by #LAPD and tried to talk @OccupyLA protesters into peaceful resolution. They are now watching from city hall steps.”  “They're also trying to get down 2 protesters atop a 3-story tree house built in a palm tree right outside of Mayor Villaraigosa's office.”)

Aggressive, in-the-moment news and images dominated the homepage throughout the night. No other news source offered the speed and breadth of latimes.com.

“We did so well on Occupy L.A. because we have such well-sourced reporters -- Andrew Blankstein and Kate Linthicum -- who had inside info. on the plans,” Shelby Grad told us. “Then we flooded the zone with reporters. We had a team inside the building all night and morning posting all types of content -- stories, video, pix, etc. A truly multimedia, real-time affair.”

Peter Pae and the Business staff took that same approach to the L.A. Auto Show.  Readers turned to our coverage of the annual event more than 2.2 million times.  If you missed it, here’s a good starting point:  Bryan Chan put together six cool panoramas from the showroom floor, and from there you can check out all the reporting.  To follow all of Jerry Hirsch’s continuing auto coverage, follow him here on Twitter.

Offsite reach

Speaking of Jerry, one of the things he said earlier this year bears repeating:  “I want to be my own circulation department.”

That’s great -- in other words, not relying on the homepage for promotion. Rather, actively taking our journalism to where readers congregate. We’re continuing to improve here. Since March, we’ve grown by double-digit margins month after month after month, and it’s directly related to our real-time reporting and offsite reach. Readership from Google is up by 88% year over year.  Audience growth from Facebook is up by 254%.

For example, David Willman’s story on the Obama administration’s $433-million plan to pursue an experimental smallpox drug was one of the most-read articles in November; more than 70% of our readers came from off site.  Same goes for Sergei L. Loiko’s story on the exodus of Russian citizens leaving the country: 72% came from off site. 

Our growth on Facebook and Twitter remains steady and strong; by the end of the month we had more than150,000 fans on the main Facebook page and more than 190,000 followers of @latimes on Twitter.

(The jury is still out on whether Google Plus will be able to cut into Facebook’s social media dominance, but our presence on the network is strong). 

That’s not to say our front door isn’t important. But to continue to expand our audience, all of us must be actively participating in the social space and bringing new readers to our site instead of waiting for readers to find us.

Take Deborah Netburn, for example.  In the social space, she has a great track record.  Averaging more than 1,000 Facebook shares per post, she rarely has homepage promotion but produces some of the most-read stories on our site month in and month out. 

In case you missed it

Make sure to read Ken Bensinger’s fantastic multipart series on used-car dealerships that cater to people with bad credit, no credit, or low income. While you’re there, check out the great graphics presentation by Lorena Iñiguez Elebee, Raoul Rañoa, Les Dunseith, Robert Burns, John Corrigan and Steve Eames.

Check out Kurt Streeter’s series on hospice care in a high-security penitentiary and visit the excellent photo gallery by Brian van der Brug.

Watch the video in the “Breaking the cycle of abuse” story by Irfan Khan. It is a wrenching look into a house of “doom and gloom” narrated by domestic abuse survivor Laura Cowan, who unknowingly led herself and her children into the middle of one of the most notorious abuse cases in recent California history.

Video: Following a new initiative, reporters throughout the newsroom, powered by the launch of a new video system (Brightcove), offered readers more story-related videos than ever, leading the way to our highest-trafficked month ever, with 514,650 streams.

On the road: Star Ministry of Gossip blogger Christie D’Zurilla was on the road last week to Sacramento.  She headed up to the bureau to work with our PolitiCal bloggers.  No one better to do it.  She’s increased her readership by 121% year over year.

Mobile:  In November, we continued to meet our readers on the platforms of their choosing.  We had a 24% increase in readership to our iPad app, which beat October's 18% growth. Audiences to our phone apps and mobile site each grew 19%.  Additionally, in Version 1.5 of our iPad app, which made it to the iTunes store early in the month, we were able to give our readers a much more stable app, cleaner panels, and an offline reading tool.

Welcome:  Ron Parsons has accepted a new position with LATMG.  He will be one of the leaders in our new Digital Product Management team, aiming to develop and improve our core digital products.  Ron blends editorial experience with insightful product development chops, and will help to define our product strategy.  This will involve working cross-functionally, gathering requirements, defining the vision and product goals, and leading technology, design, and user experience to drive our products from inception to launch.

Ron holds a masters in journalism and started his career as a sports reporter for the Arizona Daily Star.  Since then, he has worked for IBM, Yahoo Inc., Tribune/L.A. Times, and Buzz Media.  Ron has most recently been the senior director of product development at Tribune Interactive.  His most recent project was to launch the paywall for Baltimore and Allentown.

We’d also like to welcome Analisa Tamayo to the L.A. Times.  She will be one of our key digital product leads as we build the LATMG product management team.  Analisa comes to us from ABC News Digital, where she was most recently the senior product manager for mobile and video.  She has also worked at MTV Networks as a product manager and a QA lead and was previously at Muze Inc. as a test engineer.  Analisa was a freelance writer for New York magazine, Rolling Stone, and Spin.  She holds a B.A. degree in anthropology and a B.S. degree in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin.

Now to the tale of the tape...

Top 10 blogs

L.A. Now: 11,660,107
Framework: 5,846,334
Nation Now: 4,615,420
Travel: 4,154,844*
Ministry of Gossip: 4,191,230*
Politics Now: 3,619,574
Fabulous Forum: 3,615,799*
Technology: 3,184,943
Show Tracker: 2,021,628
Hero Complex: 1,805,052

*New record

Top 10 stories/blog posts

Canada’s new plastic $100 bill is all tricked out -- Deborah Netburn: 421,289
Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal -- David Willman: 387,923
Scientists invent lightest material on earth. What now? -- Deborah Netburn: 332,923
Shootings, pepper-spray attack mar Wal-Mart Black Friday sales -- Andrew Blankstein, Hailey Branson-Potts: 300,655
Sheriff’s Department reopens Natalie Wood case -- Richard Winton, Sam Allen, Andrew Blankstein:  268,112
Pacquiao vs. Marquez: Live coverage -- Lance Pugmire: 266,182
Customers hit by pepper spray at Wal-Mart describe scene of chaos -- Andrew Blankstein, Shan Li, Hailey Branson-Potts, Dalina Castellanos: 248,225
Frequent gamers have brain differences, study finds -- Eryn Brown: 224,742
Russians are leaving the country in droves -- Sergei Loiko: 195,242
Multiple missteps led to drone killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- David Cloud, David Zucchino: 166,182
 

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