The Tribune Company-owned Los Angeles Times will soon begin adding e-commerce links to selected stories and blog posts, as "both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company," editor Russ Stanton told staffers in a memo yesterday, LAObserved reported.
The e-commerce links will be highlighted in green with a double underline and no blue editorial link will be replaced with an e-commerce link. Each article or a post that includes an e-commerce green link will have a disclaimer at its foot stating: "Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites," Stanton stated in the memo, posted on LAObserved. "These post-publication links to sites such as Amazon and TicketNetwork will serve as both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company."
The ads will be placed by an e-commerce producer based at the Chicago Tribune, also owned by the Tribune Co., where the project has been in its testing phase for about six months. The e-commerce links will appear on health, image, food, travel, books, entertainment, sports sections and photo galleries. The green links will not appear in columns, news section articles and blogs, according to the memo on LAObserved.
Whilst encouraging readers to participate in discussions by providing a platform to comment, share opinions with journalists and interact with other readers, Stanton stated he expects to learn how readers view the newspaper's journalism: "as unfettered as the discussions may be, they are worth hosting - and cultivating."
Stanton also announced a revised comment policy wherein registered users of Facebook and other social networking sites can post comments on Times stories, articles and photos live, without moderation, but not on blogs. Users will pass through a word filter that blocks an extensive list of vulgarities, but there are chances inappropriate comments will be able slip past the filter, as the system is not foolproof.
The Tribune Co. isn't the first to try e-commerce.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have been trying new revenue maximising streams by selling wine, travel packages, fine art prints, and more, while European newspapers have even larger merchandising efforts. In the United Kingdom, the Guardian sells an entire fashion store, offering shoes, suits and pajamas. The Telegraph makes one-quarter of its profit from selling products, and is the leading retailer of clothes hangers in Britain, according to Jeff Jarvis' favourite anecdote on newspaper merchandising, Editor & Publisher's Mark Fitzgerald commented.
"And while Brit newspapers may blatantly sell their preferred political candidates in their newspaper pages, there's no evidence they've compromised their journalism because the business-side is selling wine. The Chicago Tribune, to take one example, has apparently been selling e-commerce links for six months, and yet as a seven-day subscriber I didn't notice a thing, certainly not any shift in news coverage," Fitzgerald wrote.