The decline in advertising, fueled by a weak real estate market, has boosted the copy-to-ads ratio above the industry target of 50-50, giving readers more stories than they can digest, while the paper competes for attention with the Internet and TV, editor Russ Stanton said.
As a result, the paper will undergo a makeover by the fall that will cut pages by 15 percent per week, eliminate some sections and trim story length, Stanton said.
"The number one reason that people cancel the L.A. Times is, they tell us, they don't have enough time to read the paper that we give them every day," Stanton said. "We're going to be more picky about the stories we choose to write long and a lot more picky about the ones we write shorter."
The Web and print departments will be merged into one operation with a single budget, and the company will also refocus on being more versatile, he said.
"We're great about putting out a paper; we're getting a lot better at putting up a Web site," he said. "We're not very good on TV or radio, and we don't do mobile at all. We need to do all of those things going forward."
The move followed an announcement last week that the paper's parent, Tribune Co., is exploring the sale of its headquarters in Chicago and the building in downtown Los Angeles that houses the Times.
A half-dozen major newspapers announced layoffs last week totaling about 900 jobs.
Also Wednesday, Journal Sentinel Inc. said it would cut about 10 percent of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 1,300 full-time employees, and Media General Inc. said it would lay off 21 newsroom employees at The Tampa Tribune by early fall as part of a one-fifth cut in its news staff.
Stanton declined to say which sections would be cut, but he said the A section, containing foreign, national and top local stories, will get larger.
Last month, the paper said it would also stop publishing its money-losing monthly magazine using editorial staff. A new magazine is planned to launch as early as August with other staff.
The most recent cuts were made assuming the economy would stabilize early next year and were designed to help the paper "get ahead of the change that's roiling the entire industry," said Times Publisher David Hiller.
The combined moves "should make a significant contribution toward offsetting the revenue declines."
"It won't fully offset them, but it'll help," Hiller said.
The Times' weekday circulation fell 5.1 percent from a year earlier to 773,884 in March, while the Sunday edition fell 6.1 percent to 1.1 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That ranked it fourth and second in the nation, respectively.
The editorial staff of 876 people will shrink by about 17 percent to more than 700 people by Labor Day. Jobs also will be eliminated in circulation, marketing and advertising, bringing total employment to about 3,000 at the Times, local weekly papers, the Spanish-language daily Hoy and latimes.com.
"These moves will be difficult and painful," Stanton said in a memo to staff. "But it is absolutely crucial that as we move through this process, we must maintain our ambition and our determination to produce the highest-quality journalism in print and online, every day."
Hiller did not provide details on the severance terms to be offered but said he expected they would be similar to earlier staff buyouts, including payment equivalent to two weeks' salary for every year of service, up to 52 weeks.
The paper cut 100 jobs, including at least 40 in the newsroom, in February. Continuing reductions have pared the Times' news staff from its 2001 level of nearly 1,200.
Tribune Co. said in May that its first-quarter advertising revenue declined 15 percent, contributing to an 11 percent drop in operating revenues from its publishing division, to $823 million from $926 million a year earlier.
That unit, which consists of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and other newspapers, saw operating profit decline 74 percent to $37 million.