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Aaron Kushner, publisher of The Orange County Register, will launch the Los Angeles Register Thursday. / Jae C. Hong, AP

It is, as John Travolta says in Pulp Fiction, a bold statement.

Coming into someone else's turf to launch a new newspaper was an audacious, not to say virtually impossible, ploy in the best of times, even back in the hard-to-believe-Harry days when newspapers were actually moneymaking machines.

But today? A time when newspapers are struggling desperately to figure out how to make a go of it in the digital age, when all the cool kids are getting their news on smartphones?

Today, when a 6-year-old digital news site (Alaska Dispatch) is swallowing up a 68-year-old, Pulitzer-winning daily (the Anchorage Daily News) heretofore owned by McClatchy, one of the nation's top newspaper companies?

And in Los Angeles, big, sprawling Los Angeles, no less, which last time we looked had an established newspaper, the bloodied but still formidable Los Angeles Times?

Really?

That's exactly what Aaron Kushner, the free-spending, print-loving owner of the Orange County Register, is doing. Next Wednesday will witness the debut of the Los Angeles Register, the latest beachhead in Kushner's ever-growing Southern California media empire.

Kushner, a former greeting card executive and Internet entrepreneur, plunged into the newspaper business in 2012 when his privately held company, 2100 Trust, acquired Freedom Communications, the parent of the Orange County Register.

Since then, moving sharply against the grain, Kushner has significantly beefed up the staff and size of the Register, acquired the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., and set off his first newspaper war by starting a paper in Long Beach, Calif., which already had a daily, the Press-Telegram.

All of that sounds like enough excitement. So why tug on Superman's cape?

Kushner says he thinks the Register will offer an alternative that will appeal to a substantial number of Angelenos and advertisers. While he offers that the L.A. Times is "a very good national newspaper," he says the Register's focus will be unremittingly local. And he believes his paper's "right-of-center, pro-business" editorial stance will attract readers looking for a point of view more conservative than the Times'.

Kushner says his new baby will be "robust": 50 to 60 pages during the week and 80 to 90 on Sunday. The Register is opening four new bureaus, downtown and in the San Fernando Valley, Hermosa Beach and Pasadena. The Register also has that presence in Long Beach, which happens to be in Los Angeles County.

Asked how many journalists will be deployed to L.A., Kushner responds that he's reluctant to to get into what he calls "inside baseball." "We (already) have the best sports section" in the region," he says. "Should the reporter who covers the Dodgers be counted?" Like the Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., which is challenging New Orleans' Times-Picayune on its home turf, Kushner comes into the fray with some significant assets in place thanks to his other properties.

Pressed, he says there will be "over 50" journalists who just cover Los Angeles politics and business. While the Times, whose parent Tribune Co. has gone through bankruptcy, has suffered steep staff cuts, it still has far more reporting firepower.

"Can we cover everything? Of course not," Kushner says. "We're pretty focused on what we want to do," he adds, ticking off locales where the paper will concentrate its efforts, as well as City Hall and countywide issues.

"We don't see the size of the staff as a measure of much of anything," he says. "The size of the physical paper speaks more than how many people" are putting it out.

The Los Angeles shock troops are not new hires, but come out of the expanded Register staff.

As he does with his other initiatives, Kushner sees L.A. as a long-term play. It's a "10-year-plus" business plan with no initial circulation targets. The early indicators, he says, will be single-copy sales and local advertising.

"We're not an Internet company that can move on a dime," he says. "We're building an important institution."

At a time of exciting new digital news initiatives, there is nothing quite like Kushnerworld out there. From the get-go, he has said it still makes sense to invest in print, for one very good reason: Despite all the heady talk about the digital future, and despite the downward trajectory of print advertising, that's still where newspaper companies make most of their revenue.

It will be fascinating see how all of this plays out.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Rieder: Launching a new paper in LA a bold move

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