The Los Angeles Times Media Group announced Monday it has launched a shopping website in a bid to increase its revenues.
The website, called District West, lets shoppers browse and buy items from designers and artisans linked to 11 neighborhoods. The neighborhoods include Santa Monica, Silver Lake, Downtown and Culver City. Items range from t-shirts to guitar straps, with most items selling for $200 or less.
"District West makes SoCal accessible to anyone hoping to tap into its unique sensibility or buy hyper-local," said Jennifer Collins, The Times vice president of revenue development, in a press release.
The site comes at a time when the publishing continues to take a hit from a decline in print-ad sales. The Los Angeles Times’ parent company, Chicago-based Tribune Co., said sales at its publishing division dropped four percent to $446 million in the third quarter.
Collins said the Times Media Group is focused on diversifying where it gets its revenues. She said the group is 'excited to leverage the marketing power of our properties to establish District West as a unique digital shopping experience.'
Besides shopping, the District West website also has short stories on various topics such as fashion and interviews with locals on their "street style."
The Times stated in a press release that District West is the first standalone e-commerce initiative launched outside of latimes.com. Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan told KPCC that the L.A. Times editorial staff is not involved in District West and there no plans to integrate content written by L.A. Times reporters onto District West.
A step in the right direction
USC journalism professor Gabriel Kahn called District West a step in the right direction for journalism companies to explore new realms of revenue. He believes the site is geared toward the under 30 crowd, who probably doesn't subscribe to the Times' print editions.
“I think this is great they are expanding the type of relationship they can have with advertisers and bringing it to a real commerce space and trying to make themselves the marketplace where that is transacted,” Kahn said.
Other analysts were skeptical about whether District West will succeed. Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at Poynter, said other newspapers that have launched shopping directory type websites have encountered challenges such as gaining enough users.
“My impression is it always seemed like a good idea in concept, but I don’t know of many or any that have really sort of blossomed in a big way,” Edmonds said. “However, what didn’t work yesterday might work great today with different technology.”
Up next for Tribune
Tribune, the Los Angeles Times parent company, plans to spin-off its newspapers into its own separate business, which has received criticism from media analysts and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). Waxman said he’s concerned about how the newspapers will need to pay Tribune rent to operate in their current buildings and a cash dividend through debt financing. He requested a meeting with Tribune, which will take place on Wednesday.