Las Vegas Sun tries innovative path toward online success

“A newspaper success story.” That was the topic for Drex Heikes when he spoke to us here at Annenberg about his work at the Las Vegas Sun. But, really, he said, “What we have is a newspaper that’s trying.”

It’s an interesting effort, for sure. Since 2005 the Sun has been a small daily inserted into the rival newspaper (operating under a JOA), plus a vibrantly innovative website. The print paper is innovative, too: Typically eight attractive, ad-free pages, it focuses on the interpretative, the entrepreneurial, the investigative. “We get to think the bigger thoughts,” said Heikes, who at one point entertained the notion of coming to Los Angeles to do an all-Web paper to compete with the embattled Times.

Given the uniqueness of Vegas and the rarity of the JOA model, it’s unclear how much of the Sun’s experience is exportable. And, oh yes, it’s all rather richly subsidized by a buoyantly happy billionaire publisher, Brian Greenspun, who exults, in a video: “My God, this is the future of journalism. It’s here right now, and we did it!” He’s hoping the lines will cross in favor of profitability by 2012, but in the meantime, says Heikes, Greenspun “is having fun. He’s 62 years old, and he looks like he’s 14.”

Well, surely that part is exportable: Any other billionaires out there who’d like to try this?

About Geneva Overholser

Geneva Overholser is director of the School of Journalism at USC Annenberg.


  1. Great article!

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