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Newspapers Look To Digital Billboards For Better Revenues

Needless to say, the newspaper business is struggling with declining ad revenues and circulation. Just look at the stock charts for the New York Times Company or Gannett . The big challenge for all these companies--including Tribune, now controlled by billionaire Sam Zell and Dow Jones, now owned by the Wall Street Journal--is growing the business of newspapers online sites, which currently generate just seven to eight percent of the industry's revenues.

Now the LA Times, part of the Tribune Company , is taking a new tack: putting its headlines up all over town. The paper is putting ads with story headlines and photos on 10 Clear Channel digital billboards around the city. The ads, which flash onto the big board about once a minute for eight seconds at a time, are constantly updated- reporting the news in real time.

The paper's marketing and editorial teams meet to decide what headlines will best attract a casual reader of the paper to latimes.comas soon as they get to work, or to stop by a newsstand. Someone in the LA Times marketing office plugs in a headline and seconds later it pops up on the billboards all over town.

The theory is these real-time, dynamic ads will show people that the LATimes isn't just a newspaper, it's a 24-7 multi-media company. So far it seems to be working. The ads first launched about two weeks ago, timed to the Oscars, and traffic on latimes.com has been at a record high. We commuters may be seeing many more of these headlines on billboards pretty soon. After ten weeks the LATimes and Clear Channel will evaluate the success of the program to figure out if they should roll out more.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.