The Los Angeles Times -- desperate for new revenue sources as it's beset by declining circulation and advertising sales -- is aggressively angling for the $50 million award-lobbying ad market long dominated by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
In an overdue move to cover a uniquely Los Angeles scene, the paper, which is also dealing with the for-sale sign on owner Tribune Co., recently took its year-old online "The Envelope" section into print. It also hired a top Reporter ad exec to aggressively swipe sales from competitors.
Times execs say moving "The Envelope" into print is part of a larger initiative to make the paper as dominant in entertainment as The Washington Post is in politics.
"This is the Times doing more of what it has done, and more of what it should have done," said John T. O'Loughlin, the paper's senior VP-marketing, planning and development.
And competitors are taking notice. "I can't put out an 800,000-circulation daily broadsheet, but they're able to cover, in print, almost exactly the same subjects we cover," said Variety Publisher Charles C. Koones. "Given the realities of their business, they have to look at every possibility, and it makes sense that they'd look at this."
Part of a larger strategy
"The Envelope" also offers a clue to Tribune's larger strategy in rolling out sub-publications. At the Chicago Tribune, Mr. O'Loughlin led the launch of RedEye, a youth-targeted tabloid that provided a print home for Metromix, the paper's wildly popular listings website. RedEye recently became profitable and has lured hundreds of small advertisers into Tribune's Chicago network.
"The Envelope," which launched online last year, followed the same model. An entertainment-news portal on the Times site may be the next to migrate to print in some fashion.
Mr. O'Loughlin said 11 print editions of "The Envelope" are planned for the awards-show cycle, and joint print-online revenue "could approach eight figures," a sizable chunk of an awards-advertising market estimated between $40 million and $50 million. The sales effort is led by Lynne Segall, a former associate publisher of The Hollywood Reporter.
A look at "The Envelope's" first two editions -- printed on higher-quality stock than the rest of the paper to appease advertisers accustomed to glossy trade pubs -- shows a handful of "for your consideration" ads amid a jumble of interviews, party pictures and commentaries on the show-business awards scene.
"These ads don't have movie times," Mr. O'Loughlin said. "They're not just migrating over from the 'Calendar' section."
Newspapers still have clout
Newspaper-industry boosters said the ease with which the Times was able to make a startup a player is a reminder of the clout market-dominating newspapers still enjoy, despite gloomy circulation and advertising trends. "It shows you how good [newspapers] are at the type of coverage that's particularly local," said James Goss, a newspaper analyst at Barrington Research Associates.
Variety's Mr. Koones said it's too early to tell how big an impact "The Envelope" will have on the awards-advertising market.
Editorially, the impact has been more noticeable, said Anne Thompson, deputy film editor at The Hollywood Reporter. "The Envelope" was the first to report the news that the Golden Globes had nominated Leonardo DiCaprio for best actor for his performance in "The Departed" even though Warner Bros. had lobbied for a supporting-actor nomination.
"Los Angeles is a company town," Ms. Thompson said, "and now they're treating entertainment the way a Detroit paper would cover cars."