Metromix's Rollout in L.A. Goes Nicely With Zell's Plans

What Everyone Is Talking About

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Rupert Murdoch isn't the only billionaire conspicuously laying paw prints all over a major media property. Sam Zell hasn't been able to stay out of the news to save his life since he took Tribune Co. private last December.
Say it again, Sam: Zell gives 'em hell all over the place.
Say it again, Sam: Zell gives 'em hell all over the place. Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast

He's made obscene outbursts to employees, such as the Orlando Sentinel photographer who was hit with an F-bomb during a question-and-answer session. Mr. Zell apologized via company memo; the company quickly reminded employees that they are not to speak like their new chairman-president-CEO.

He also arrived promising to win by increasing revenue, not by cutting costs or jobs, but last week had to start implementing voluntary "separation programs," involuntary layoffs, attrition and elimination of vacant positions. "Unfortunately, I can't turn this ship from its course of the past 10 years within just a few months," he wrote to employees.

Perhaps luckily for Mr. Zell, then, the company had already made some plans to find new revenue. Last week the Los Angeles Times Media Group, one of Tribune's crown jewels, proceeded with its introduction of a free weekly for hipsters, reverse-engineered from a website.

The project's origin considerably predates Mr. Zell; the print weekly and the site that spawned it, both called Metromix Los Angeles, are descendants of an arts-and-entertainment site called Metromix that was introduced by the Chicago Tribune in 1997. Local online editions operate in Chicago, New York, Baltimore and elsewhere.

The print play in Los Angeles represents a push by the Times to finally get its hooks into the young-adult Angelenos who rarely buy the morning paper. "This is something for the Los Angeles Times that's really trying to reach a demo that we haven't before," said Rich Stepan, general manager for Metromix Los Angeles. The entry from the Los Angeles Times will go up against L.A. Weekly, part of Village Voice Media.
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