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Times Media picks revenue exec

McKibben fills a post seen as key to reviving the paper's fortunes.

August 27, 2008|Martin Zimmerman | Times Staff Writer

Newspaper industry veteran Scott McKibben on Tuesday was named executive vice president, chief revenue officer, for the Los Angeles Times Media Group, filling a job considered key to reviving the company's flagging financial fortunes.

The appointment of McKibben is the first major move by new Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein.

McKibben most recently was president and publisher of the Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., and vice president of the central region of Freedom Communications, overseeing the Gazette and four other papers. He will report directly to Hartenstein.

McKibben, 55, takes over as The Times and other newspapers are struggling to reverse sharp slides in ad revenue caused by a slump in the housing industry and the flight of advertisers and readers to the Internet.

"We are at a juncture where we have an opportunity to transform the business," McKibben said of his reasons for taking the Times job. "And if you can help to transform it at a place like the Los Angeles Times, you can leave your mark on the entire industry."

Advertising on newspaper websites has been growing but so far has failed to replace the revenue lost on the print side.

This month Tribune Co., The Times' Chicago-based parent company, reported a 15% decline in second-quarter newspaper ad sales from a year earlier. And New York Times Co. said Tuesday that July ad sales slid 16% compared with July 2007.

The L.A. Times has been without a head of ad sales since Dave Murphy left the paper in February.

Since leading the buyout that took the company private late last year, Tribune Chief Executive Sam Zell has frequently looked outside the newspaper industry for important hires, including Hartenstein, who took over as publisher Aug. 18 after a career in the satellite TV industry.

But Hartenstein indicated that McKibben's 30-plus years' experience in the newspaper business -- particularly in California -- was a prime factor in his appointment. In addition to his tenure at Freedom Communications, McKibben's resume includes stints as president and publisher of Oakland-based ANG Newspapers and president and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and Independent Newspaper Group. Freedom owns the Orange County Register.

"Scott has worked in California and knows our marketplace," Hartenstein wrote in a message to employees. "He's lived and breathed newspapers all his life and understands the challenges and opportunities."

While at the Gazette, McKibben set up Freedom's first sales force dedicated solely to selling Internet ads, said the chain's CEO, Scott Flanders. The Colorado paper's ratio of Internet advertising to total ad sales is now the highest in the Freedom chain, Flanders said.

McKibben said he would push to increase sales of Internet ads at The Times as well, especially to small and medium-size businesses that don't advertise in the paper's print edition.

"Every advertising proposal that leaves our building needs to have an interactive component of some sort tied to it," he said.

He also said he planned to expand or explore other revenue sources, including event sponsorships; cooperative ad sales with KTLA-TV, the local Tribune-owned station; and revenue-sharing opportunities with other local newspapers.

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martin.zimmerman@latimes.com

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