Tony Pierce on his move to the LA Times and the state of Los Angeles blogs

Picture%2020.pngOne year ago this week Tony Pierce was deemed non-notable and had his Wikipedia entry deleted. This in spite of his being deemed the Blogfather of thousands of readers, having appeared on national television to discuss blogging, and, heck, just Googling the word “tony” once gave his infamous Busblog the number one result (he’s now in seventh).

Now that he’s moving on from LAist to manage the blogs at the Los Angeles Times, is it time for Wikipedians to reconsider?

In his new role at the Times, Pierce’s job will also be to “bring attention to the pros who write the paper.” Considering his track record at LAist, he could be the man to do it: during his tenure, traffic escalated from 125,000 page views per month to one million.

Pierce strenuously denies the site’s success had anything to do with its reduced focus on Los Angeles (see comments here), however, he does attribute it partly to his attacking commenters and largely on recruiting a small army of talented writers. It’ll definitely be fascinating to see not only how LAist will fare without him, but also if he can bring the same level of success to one of the world’s greatest newspapers.

His first day on the clock is December 17th.

Below, Pierce gives a little more on what he’s expecting while working on Spring Street, how blogging has gotten him girls (in Canada, especially), and goes no holds barred on whats wrong with blogging.la and the Los Angeles blog scene.

DM: How’d this come together?

Tony: My friend Matt Welch recently announced that he was leaving the Times to be the Editor in Chief of Reason magazine – he was the Times’ associate opinions page editor.

So I congratulated him and said, but bro you were my “in” at the Times. He said for what? I said “I want to run the Times’ blogs.” He said, “Why? LAist gets 4x the hits as our best blog.” I said, I know, I love the underdog.

So he said, write Meredith and say, “I know I’m crazy but check it out…” So I quoted him, gave her the pitch, got the interview which led to a second interview.

And then I got an offer.

DM: Is there a job description? What will you be doing that isn’t already being done?

Tony: Basically my job will be to manage all of their existing blogs and be part of the process for launching new ones.

My job is to bring attention to the pros who write the paper. Those people are better writers than me and better photographers. But for some reason, they can’t get the eyeballs by just being great.

What had already been done was Stage 1, in a sense, which was launching the original two dozen blogs. This will be Stage 2.

DM: Will Bettie Rinehart (Reader Interactivity Editor, who previously has managed the blogs) still be there?

Tony:
She is moving on to a different part of the Times. No one told me where she’s going, but I’m sure she will do well there.

DM:
Do you have a hitlist of things you’d like to accomplish – new blogs you’d like to see, bloggers you’d like to recruit, or features youd like to add?

Tony:
I definitely have a short list of bloggers I would love to work with. But thats top secret. However I did name names in the interviews, and they were met with smiles and laughs. But my fly could have been down, so who knows.

As the Beastie Boys once said, I have a million ideas that I ain’t even rocked yet. So yes, I have an endless supply of feature ideas all of which are brilliant and groundbreaking.

DM:
So secret…

Tony:
For now.

Now what happens to LAist?
“Utter ruin probably. Blogging.la will return to the top of the charts.”


DM:
How’re you going to adjust to an office, 9-5 job? And I’m guessing there might be a dress code.

Tony:
I missed office life, but if you think ive gotten where I am working simply 9-5 you’ve mistaken me for another Tony Pierce. And yes, I will have to turn in my pajamas for actual clothes I’m a single man, and a very social man.

DM: Okay, big question: office, cubicle, or bullpen?

Tony:
Bettie had an office.

DM:
Window?

Tony:
I wish. I dont even think Meredith Artley (Executive Editor of Interactive, his new boss) has a window. I will probably be out of the office alot so I can view the glory of downtown.

DM:
So, now what happens to LAist?

Tony:
Utter ruin probably. Blogging.la will return to the top of the charts

DM:
No doubt.

Tony:
Actually i will be totally fascinated with what happens to LAist

DM:
I think Andy Sternberg and Zach Behrens would make a good team of editors

Tony:
The ugly truth of my reign there was I was surrounded by the perfect mix of editors.

Zach was super into the Val and transportation and green topics. Lindsay is an English teacher at Cal State LA. Kemp writes for Reuters and used to review video games and wrote about rap for Vibe. The list goes on and on.

It was an all star team for me to work with. Very hard to fail when 30+ people are pumping out 20-25 posts a day. And lets not forget the photos of Joey Maloney, Lushious, et al.

DM:
Since you started blogging, what are some of the high points and low points you’ve seen in the state of LA blogs?

Tony:
The low part is at LAist I didnt feel like we had a serious competitor. Someone who was trying to do the same thing that we were doing. And when you dont have that, often you either have to create super high goals or you begin to fight internally. Fortunately we had Gothamist in NY to compete against, in a way but they were sooooo much more popular and better than us that it wasn’t a fair fight.

So the problem I see in LA is there’s not a city blog that’s playing the same game as LAist which is: going to concerts every night
reviewing food every day, stacking the staff with dozens of people, and really really really trying to follow in the footsteps of the only other metro blog on the Technorati Top 100.

The high point of LA blogs is there are some really good taco ones. And of course, some amazing gossip ones. Other than that, this could be Kansas.

And I mean that with all due respect to blogging.la

DM:
Haha. Sure. Blogs tends to be staffed by volunteers who can only blog part time…

Tony:
LAist is 99% unpaid volunteers and we got millions of pageviews. Quadrupled the LA Times’ best blogs.People are capable to acheive whatever they set their minds to. So you hire tons of people and let them blog twice a week.

DM:
But before you came on, were previous editors free to work full time to promote and manage the site?

Tony:
I was the first paid employee of LAist and the first that Gothamist paid outside of NY.

DM:
Money well spent. Traffic boomed after you came on.

Tony:
I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didnt wanna fuck it up for bloggers. But no one was trying to do what I was trying to do.

“I also started fighting with the commentors a LOT. That drew traffic like mad.”


DM:
Was there a turning point that you noticed?

Tony:
Yes, realizing that I couldn’t do it with a small staff, even though people on their personal blogs could blog daily
for some reason when it came to a group blog about a city, they just couldnt get it together every day. So instead of yelling at them or fighting with them to hit their minimums I just said fuckit and hired everyone I could.

I took chances with a lot of people. Some were huge failures. Some were huge surprises.

I also started fighting with the commentors a LOT. That drew traffic like mad. People were reading the comments more than the posts.

DM:
Will you be able to do that at the times?

Tony:
Hells no.

DM: What direction or changes would you like to see the “blog-LA-sphere” go?

Tony:
I want you guys to quit chit chatting with each other like people really give a fuck what you think about walking to the farmers market.

DM:
By “you guys” do you mean b.la, or la blogs in general?

Tony: Blogging.la. You have a huge city here with tons happening every day but you pretend like this is Kansas. You act like old ladies who have nothing else to talk about. LA is the center of the universe. You guys aren’t. I’m not. Zach isn’t. LA is. Write about LA.

You are smart people, but everything is “I, I, I.” “I went to the Grove omg.” “I went to the Arclight omg.”

You will never get hits that way. You will never change anything that way. You will continue to get crushed.

Plus you need a real staff, not just a few people.

I love Sean deeply but his basic concept is flawed. There are no hits in his universe. The chit chat doesnt attract anyone,
which is sad because he was here before anyone and he has great people.

If i was going to stay at LAist i would cut the fat as far as the cocktail chatter too.

Gothamaist says We to keep people off the I button, cuz its not about that.

I’d also like Losanjealous to get it together and actually go to more shows. They were competition once upon a time. The only blogs truly kicking ass other than LAist are corporate blogs. Defamer. Eater. Curbed.

DM: Doesn’t that approach though change what you’re writing from blogs to mainstream articles though? removing the personal approach?

Tony:
If you wanna write about the Grove, write about the Grove. Your experience counts to a point. But its a story about the Grove. If you wanna write about the river, the lede should be about the river, not about why You went to the river. If Beck plays the Echo, no one cares about the reviewer. They only care if Beck was good or shitty. Thats difficult for bloggers, i know. Trust me.

DM:
I hate music reviews. I want to hear if the girls were hot, or if the bartender was canned.

Tony:
Good, then write about them. But no one cares if you were in a bad mood. Or if you were horny or drunk.

DM:
Unless we’re reading the busblog.

Tony:
Well, we have already established that im the exception to all rules. But to be a successful personal blogger you need a big personality with big ideas, big successes. Or you have to be a stone fox. Thankfully i was born with model looks. But most people are normal, therefore the readers could care less about them, they care about the subject. In a metro blog the subject should be the city.

DM: Exactly how many girls have you made out with, or slept this, based on your blog cred.

Tony:
Now thats a great question. Lets just say that I am very well received in Canada. And its not because of anything other than my blogging. Which is why today I wrote an email to the Jasons and Ev formerly of Blogger and i thanked them for inventing this thing, because i would not have had the rockstar experiences that O have been blessed to have if I was still writing in my diary in secret. And I’m pretty sure that most newswriters are not getting nudes in their in box, nudes from girls way out of their league, intended only for them, of hot chicks in miniskirts and nothing more, who then follow it up with love in the flesh.

DM:
Thanks for the chat. Plenty of shit talking here to make it interesting!

Tony:
Ahahaha. My pleasure. I only want to improve the blogosphere and LAist needs the competition.

13 Replies to “Tony Pierce on his move to the LA Times and the state of Los Angeles blogs”

  1. Also, my on sadness aside, congratulations to Tony, who proves that nobody has to go the traditional route to find success.

  2. I before We except after…

    Tony’s opinions and insights as to what he feels LA blogs in general and Blogging.la specifically should do to improve are appreciated. He certainly knows of what he speaks.

    But while LAist and Blogging.la may be on the same racetrack, from my place in the backseat as a simple contributor I never considered LAist competition. I don’t say that arrogantly. I’ve just long felt they were different engines driving different machines in different directions.

    Tony may see ways to improve B.la but personally I have long appreciated the hands-off writer-directed format and style of the Blogging.la that Sean and Jason developed four years ago and have stayed true to since.

    It will take a lot more than a heavy-handed post at LAist accusing us of collectively lying to get me to not wish Tony success in his new endeavor. I harbor the same good will for whoever takes the reigns at LAist. Above it all I hope Blogging.la keeps doing what it’s been doing. I for one am going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all this time– emphasisis on “I.”

  3. best part of the interview…

    You are smart people, but everything is “I, I, I.” “I went to the Grove omg.” “I went to the Arclight omg.”
    You will never get hits that way. You will never change anything that way. You will continue to get crushed.

    it’s very true.

  4. I personally enjoy the POV writing style that Blogging.la and other Metroblogging sites nurture. It’s one of the things I love most about reading blogs. I have lived in SoCal all my life and often find new gems by reading sites like Blogging.la.

  5. Yeah, agree with you Will. Blogs are personal outlooks on ones life. If everyone wrote in the third person about their daily lives, blogging wouldn’t be blogging. Tony had a good point about people not wanting to hear that you got drunk at the Beck show, but want to hear about the Beck show. Each blog will evolve in different directions, it’s such a new thing for most people. I’ve been doing it for over a year now and am still developing some sort of style, “I” hope.

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