After a day or two of playing with the numbers, he came back to me with an interesting picture: Based on its current level of online ad revenue, he says, the L.A. Times could support a staff of about 275 people at their present salaries, and even offer a slight bump in benefits. This factors in office space, equipment, and all other major costs. And get this: The paper would be a solid moneymaker, boasting a profit margin of about 10%.
Of those 275 folks, Stanton figures, about 150 would work in the newsroom; the rest would sell ads, provide tech support, and handle various administrative duties.
This is far from a perfect solution, of course. Many older readers, in particular, are bound to balk at any arrangement that tries to force them online. What’s more, cutting the news-gathering ranks to just 150 would sharply curtail what the Times could do, while causing a great amount of pain to those who’ve lost their livelihoods. The paper today has about 625 reporters and editors around the world (a stable that’s down from the 1,000-plus when I was there just a couple of years ago).
But perfect isn’t an option for the newspaper industry anymore. “In turbulent times,” Drucker wrote, “the first task of management is to make sure of the institution’s capacity for survival.” And that’s just it: With 150 journalists, a paper such as the L.A. Times could indeed survive—and still provide an indispensable service to the community.
(via Jay Rosen)