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How the Los Angeles Times transformed its entire digital newsroom in less than a year

The Los Angeles Times modernized systems across its entire editorial newsroom to centrally manage the intake, production and distribution of content—including millions of archival assets—in just 12 months.

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Los Angeles Times by the numbers

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130,000+
New stories published in CMS in three-year span
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80 million
Digital assets in CMS
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150
Production releases since launch
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4 stars
Overall satisfaction score from CMS users
In 2018, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his family bought the L.A. Times and a handful of local Southern California papers from the Tribune company. This was a historic moment for journalism in general, and honestly it was a big moment for us from a product and technology standpoint as well. A lot of the core systems of the business needed to be either replaced, migrated, jettisoned, left behind or rebuilt. All the content management tools and all things powered from a user perspective also needed to be replaced in a relatively short timeline.
Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times
Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times

The Los Angeles Times challenge

In 2018, biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong acquired the Pulitzer-prize winning Los Angeles Times and several other southern California newspapers from the Tribune Company.

With the acquisition, the Los Angeles Times faced a tight deadline to move its entire publishing infrastructure off the Tribune’s legacy system and radically modernize its editorial newsroom systems. The publisher had 12 short months to create the framework of a modern digital newsroom.

As soon as the deal closed, the Los Angeles Times partnered with Brightspot to design and develop a massive overhaul. This included transforming a tangled legacy of disparate, disjointed systems along with millions of archival assets in digital storage—videos, documents, images. And the work needed to be completed in under a year.

The result? Replacing, migrating, jettisoning and rebuilding multiple core systems to replatform the Los Angeles Times on a modernized, digital-first foundation.

Los Angeles Times Brightspot CMS case study

The Brightspot solution for the Los Angeles Times

In 2019, the Los Angeles Times modernized systems across its entire editorial newsroom to centrally manage the intake, production and distribution of content—including millions of archival assets—on a unified platform for digital and print.

This was made possible with the launch of GrapheneCMS, the Los Angeles Times' customized version of the Brightspot platform. This powerful content platform supports a vital core function of their journalism: authoring and storytelling. A subsequent 2022 redesign and relaunch focused heavily on user experience, site speed and mobile-first features and performance.

Throughout the entirety of Los Angeles Times’ partnership with Brightspot, the publisher has also greatly benefited from Brightspot's managed-services team to ensure successful delivery outcomes and ongoing development, optimization and enhancements for one of the country’s most highly-trafficked news sites.

Los Angeles Times Brightspot CMS case study

The outcome for the Los Angeles Times

We've replaced 19 legacy systems including three content management systems, three digital asset management tools and a digital budgeting system—basically the entire way in which we plan our work as a newsroom.
Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times
Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times

  • The Los Angeles Times’ API-first content hub serves as a central syndication engine. Editors create content in the CMS and expedite distribution to print systems, plus share via newswire agencies, Apple News, mobile apps and other channels.
  • The Los Angeles Times consolidated six legacy content stores into Brightspot's DAM, Media Desk. This gave the newsroom instant access to all photos, videos, graphics and articles ever created in the Los Angeles Times’ 100-plus-year history.
  • Launched in early 2020, Brightspot's assignment dashboard is the newsroom's end-to-end content planning and budgeting hub. Editors manage 12 news desks for both digital and print, assign stories to reporters, and coordinate event coverage with in-house and freelance photojournalists.
    Los Angeles Times Brightspot CMS case study

    In detail: Los Angeles Times CMS project highlights

    Assignment Desk

    Launched in early 2020, Brightspot's assignment dashboard is the newsroom's content planning and budgeting hub, completing a true end-to-end workflow. Editors manage 12 news desks for both digital and print, assign stories to reporters and coordinate event coverage with in-house and freelance photojournalists.

    With these schedules, business teams are able, months in advance, to execute and maximize monetization strategies. Completing all daily tasks (planning, creating, publishing and curating) within the same CMS environment ensures a digital-first approach.

    Digital asset management

    Working with Brightspot, the Los Angeles Times consolidated six legacy content stores into Brightspot's DAM, Media Desk. This gave the newsroom instant access to all photos, videos, graphics and articles ever created in the Los Angeles.Times’ 100-plus-year history.

    This single digital asset management system, with 80 terabytes of high-quality materials and a real-time connection to the company’s authoring suite, has powered the company’s coverage and allowed it to flow more seamlessly.

    Syndication, distribution & ingestion

    The Los Angeles Times leverages capabilities embedded within the Brightspot platform—to manage both the content they send out into the world and to ingest content coming in.

    We have focused a lot on leveraging things that are part and parcel of the Brightspot platform in terms of both how we send things out into the world and how we ingest things in. This includes push notifications, breaking news emails, which is due to a robust Salesforce integration that we have around all of our email newsletters, and we syndicate through partners like Apple News Plus. Syndicating cleanly and having it show up with all the robust features that we expect from our story form in Apple News is incredibly important.
    Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times
    Royce Martin, VP of Product for Platform and Emerging UX for the Los Angeles Times and Cal Times

    The Los Angeles Times’ API-first content hub serves as a central syndication engine. Editors create content in the CMS, and can expedite distribution to the print systems, share it to various channels via newswire agencies, Apple News, mobile apps, YouTube and even subscriber newsletters, where content retains all the robust features from the original story format.

    Ingestion is equally important, whether leveraging strong APIs or RSS, and the Los Angeles Times brings in news feeds from the Associated Press or The New York Times, for example, in order to round out its coverage.

    Multi-medium distribution

    • Brightspot leveraged its job framework to provide various distribution services to the Los Angeles Times and its partners. The framework allows for host delegation, concurrency settings, retries, action logging and more.
    • Brightspot supports a number of business-critical features and integrations, including:
      • Push Notifications (Mailchimp, Salesforce, Social Studio, Urban Airship)
      • Print and Print Archival (NewsGate)
      • Wire Import / Consumer (AP, Brightspot, CalMatters, EFE, Kaiser Health, NYT, OpenCampus, Washington Post)
      • Apple News
    • The Brightspot architecture of “cascading” settings has allowed publishers to control provider defaults and distribution targets at site and more granular levels. This approach was used with Section models to share print articles to their proper news desk, push notifications to desired targets and Apple News stories' intended channels.

    Print integration

    • NewsGate is the print system that allows digital assets in Brightspot to be typeset and printed for physical distribution.
    • From the planning stage of a Story Assignment or draft of a story, a print package can be created and synced with NewsGate.
    • Each print package is composed of metadata like desk assignment, planned date, page, author, etc. and bundled with binaries like image or vector graphics. As content moves through a print workflow, the state of the package can be reflected.
    • For rich-text content, the Brightspot view system converts HTML markup to respective NewsGate XML markup. This allows for the retention of editorial notes and complex embeds, like quotes and infoboxes, when represented in the NewsGate system

    Structured data

    Some unexpected features have grown into core components of engagement, including:

    • Los Angeles Times' “101 Best Restaurants in L.A.” This mode of geographically-driven storytelling was originally designed to support the take-out business of neighborhood eateries early in the pandemic. But the app’s cleanly structured data driving filterable lists and map integration—paired with the city’s enduring love of take-out—has made it one of the Times’ highest converting story types.
    • The Los Angeles Times’ massive 8,000-plus recipe collection. Data normalization and ingestion were a big part of the design approach the Times took in building a search engine on top of Graphene. Now readers can find culinary inspiration with a query for something as simple as a single ingredient. 

    New mobile apps

    The Los Angeles Times built out fully native iOS and Android apps that have evolved dramatically since their 2019 launch. The very loyal and very engaged audience has been attracted by a combination of a clean and enjoyable news reader experience, a best-in-class e-newspaper, storytelling features, videos and podcasts.

    Video

    The Los Angeles Times designed and created a proprietary video player on top of Graphene. Features include looping support, autoplay and skippable ads. It supports multiple advertising providers including MediaTailor and IMA.

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