Beware: Ferro has magical plans for LA Times

Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro and his CEO gave interviews Tuesday to LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik in which they vow, Donald Trump style, to make the LA Times great again without offering any reason for a rational person to think they have a clue.

The column talks mostly about the executives' objections to the recent offer by Gannett to buy Tribune Publishing. It's the posturing you would expect — who knows what the real motivations are there. The more interesting part of the column is when Ferro suggests he has a technology secret that will fix the revenue problems of the digital newspaper industry; we just have to wait until May 4 for him to unveil a strategic plan that will explain it all to us.

Sorry if I'm skeptical of another newcomer coming along and saying it's simple and he has the magic answer that no one can see. Sam Zell, anyone?

What should be chilling for Los Angeles readers of the Times is that Ferro sounds enamored of yanking the LAT back into the mode of thinking itself, first, a global news brand and in the same league as the New York Times. The opposite of the strategy nurtured by ex-publisher Austin Beutner to be strong at home first, and not waste time and precious resources trying to be something they can't afford to be — and are no longer staffed to be.

Listen from Hiltzik's column:

"The L.A. Times is a sleeping giant," ]Ferro] said Tuesday, calling it a "billion-dollar brand .... We are planning on breathing some life into the L.A. Times globally." When he unveils his strategic plan May 4, he said, "we will be talking about how to get the L.A. Times brand … to the world. It’s on a par with the New York Times and other international publications, that no one has properly cared for, and we are going to do that."

The strategic plan also includes a "content monetization engine" that will use artificial intelligence to redistribute Tribune Publishing content to multiple destinations and market the content in a way "we think will revolutionize our content strategy," Ferro said. "We think it'll be a rock-star business" that can "create more revenue ... than you've ever seen." That module will also be unveiled May 4, he said.

More revenue than you've ever seen. Artificial intelligence. Revolutionize the strategy. Damn, why didn't I think of that?

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