The Los Angeles Times Goes E-tail

By | May 15, 2014

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L.A. TIMES GOES E-TAIL: The Los Angeles Times’ business division can now call itself a retailer.

The newspaper’s media group, which is responsible for generating revenue through advertising and other ventures, said Monday that it launched an e-commerce marketplace, District West.

A platform selling mostly fashion from Southern California-based designers and artisans, District West also includes editorial content from various bloggers. According to the Times, all content is curated by the business side and not the edit staff.

District West’s merchandise is generally priced less than $200 and is, for the most part, locally designed and manufactured, according to Jennifer Collins, the Times’ vice president of digital revenue development, who explained that prices were kept low so product could be “enjoyed on a mass level.

“We felt like given our experience, we had our finger on the pulse of Southern California,” Collins said. “We sit in the center of the design community. We feel like we can create this unique experience.”

The move is part of a larger trend for media companies that are trying to drum up excess revenue in the face of declining business. In November, for instance, The Wall Street Journal launched WSJ Shops, an e-commerce site akin to an online gift guide.

For the Times, which is owned by the embattled Tribune Co., finding new revenue streams is important. In its most recent quarter ended Nov. 11, Tribune reported a 4 percent decline in sales for its publishing division to $446 million. Layoffs and other cost-cutting measures helped the company turn an operating profit of $69 million, but slashing expenses can only take you so far.

That’s where Collins comes in. Along with her team, the exec has launched native advertising for the Times last year and focused on the recent launch of digital-sponsored content in order to drum up dollars. Unlike most e-commerce sites spawned by media companies, District West gains advertising revenue from the indie labels featured on its site. It also seeks revenue from e-commerce sales, as well as its business deals with local designers while gaining a platform to sell more native ads.

According to Collins, shipping costs for items ordered won’t be picked up by the Times; instead the media company will “tap into its already robust delivery network.”

Translation: The company will use its own trucks — i.e., the ones that deliver its newspapers — to fulfill orders at no cost to the paper.

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