Up Close with Rob Barrett, President of Digital Media at Hearst Newspapers


This was recorded when Rob was in charge of digital media at LA Times. He was also good enough to speak on a panel in a class I taught on digital media at UCLA.


00:35 Eric introduces Rob Barrett, the Interactive General Manager for LATimes.com; plays a snippet about LA Times struggle to cover local and national news.

3:08: Eric describes “On the Record…Online”; for people who like in-depth one-on-one interviews; how to subscribe to the podcast at www.OntheRecordPodcast.com; upcoming podcasts are from the recent Portable Media and Podcast Expo as well as the California Copyright Conference; past interview guests; suggestions for potential guests.

8:11: LA Times wiki-torial experiment: Eric mentions he originally wanted to speak with Rob a month ago when the LA Times was launching their wiki-torial experiment—a wiki-based editorial about the war in Iraq where readers were invited to post their own comments and responses; wiki-torial was invaded by pornography; possible reasons why this happened such as a posting on www.Slashdot.com ; other tech changes coming to LA Times.com

13:34: Troubles of newspaper business: Knight Ridder is expressing interest in selling their newspaper chain and print circulations way down, forcing media companies to place more emphasis on their online news operations; How Rob is dealing with all that as Interactive GM.

16:36 Finding content at LATimes.com: Eric’s difficulty searching for a chili recipe that was printed in LA Times but unsearchable online; headlines for the website and for the paper; building database relationships; Rob says January is the time when he hopes to have a lot of problems addressed.

20:18: Editorial content online versus in print: Eric and Rob discuss news hierarchy for the paper’s website and print editions; how NY Times does it versus LA Times;Rob’s thoughts on doing this and keeping tone of newspaper; avoiding become a wire service; restructuring the news process; Rob mentions that senior print editors served as guest web editors for two weeks for various times and were able to see how important it was to get stories to the web and avoid getting scooped.

27:14: Catastrophes and disaster getting covered first by blogs: how does LATimes.com deal with that; regaining lost readership; redefining readership; covering local and national news.

31:25: Charlie Rose and Art Sulzberger: Rob responds to Sulzberger’s comments about keeping readers; what the LA Times needs to do; Rob says more local coverage will be instituted and new technology will be integrated; why Craigslist is successful even though information may not be completely accurate; readers trusting one another a la the Ebay Trusted Seller model; possibly employing non-journalists to contribute to the site as well as allowing readers to interact with each other.

38:10: New technologies at LATimes.com: LATimes.com  has introduced podcasts but the biggest feature is The Envelope—the awards show central with blogs devoted to each major award show such as the Grammys, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, SAG awards, etc.

42:55: Podcasts: LATimes.com has introduced approximately seven podcasts; plans for more; Rob says they are focusing on the blogs first then podcasts will follow; finding talent for podcasts; how journalists are responding to these technology changes; where to subscribe to LA Times podcasts;

51:14: NY Times User Select: Mistake or Smart; how to generate revenue for the newspaper online such as charging for podcasts; content is prime focus; advertising opportunities.

54:17: Interview ends.

Photo by CC BY 2.0, Link