Looking for answers for nypost.com, Rupert Murdoch and Col Allan rely on a standby general: Jesse Angelo

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Jesse Angelo and Rupert Murdoch unveiling The Daily last year. ()
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It's been a few weeks since The New York Post lost the editor of its website, Erle Norton, to Reuters, where he is now working for fellow ex-Post editor Dan Colarusso.

A deputy has been running the site since, and no replacement for Norton has been named. But in the newsroom, rumblings at a higher level are being detected by staffers these days.

Sources tell Capital that Jesse Angelo, editor-in-chief of New Corp.'s standalone "tablet tabloid" The Daily, is expected to become "more involved" in the direction of nypost.com, which has long trailed the website of rival tabloid the Daily News in user-friendliness and page-views.

"They want Jesse to steer the Post's digital strategy," said a source familiar with the inner workings of the paper.

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"They've been grooming him for a long time and they trust him more and more to do things," said someone who has worked with Angelo.

Angelo is no stranger at the Post. A childhood friend of News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch's son James, Angelo worked his way up the company ladder with stints at British and Australian papers before arriving at the Post, where he ultimately rose to the No. 2 newsroom position under editor Col Allan.

After Murdoch assigned Angelo to make his dream of a national iPad newspaper come true (he asked the 38-year-old newsman to develop and launch The Daily, the digital tabloid concept that came to Murdoch during a bout of insomnia one night, with a budget of $30 million), Angelo retained his Post title of executive editor, even after moving over to The Daily full-time in the fall of 2010.

And he was instrumental in launching the New York Post's iPad edition, which last year, along with The Daily, cracked Apple's list of the top 10 grossing apps of 2011.

So it is perhaps unsurprising that, asked about Angelo's role in revamping the Post's website going forward, a spokeswoman characterized his current involvement as a piece of what he's been doing all along.

"The Post digital strategy is on the same track," she said. "Jesse has always been involved and always reported to Col on it, and has been bringing his skill and knowledge from The Daily to the Post's digital properties from minute one."

While the Post iPad app is certainly a part of the paper's overall digital strategy, it's only a part of it. The app is praised for the newspaper experience it delivers to readers, and walled off in a paid app structure like The Daily is; it is not a website.

Our sources said Angelo has been less involved in steering nypost.com since he got busy with The Daily. 

And nypost.com needs help. The site clocked 6.5 million unique users in January to the 10.1 million that visited nydailynews.com, according to comScore.

The two websites are a study in contrast. In the morning, the Post website most often resembles the print edition in the stories it promotes most heavily, even though the target audience for the Post print edition—morning commuters in the New York City region—is far more restrictive than the wider audience the worldwide web could offer. Throughout the day, small reports filter in from wire services, and stories slated for the next day's paper get pasted in quickly. Big news-making events are cadged or rewritten with wire copy and may change the page (yesterday, the resolution of the confrontation between police and a mad terrorist in Paris in the early morning hours replaced the top story on the site, which had been the same one touted on the paper's front page in print).

The Daily News website runs all the content from wire services and from the print edition database, but frequently buries them if they're not large national traffic-drivers. The website also assigns reporters to cover general-assignment breaking news events specifically for the web (as we witnessed in the early moments of the Occupy Wall Street protests), as well as web-only entertainment coverage, and puts together click-friendly material like slideshows of famous women looking good or bad in bikinis all over the page. The top stories almost never bear a resemblance to the top stories in the print edition, which are often too narrow or too local to attract a wide web readership.

In that, the Post website is following a recipe not unlike Angelo's for The Daily, which essentially publishes a daily edition once, then updates here and there as editors see fit in the course of the day. That is, The Daily app reads much like a daily print newspaper; as does the New York Post app. But newyorkpost.com isn't winning with that strategy.

The question might well be whether Angelo is the one to finally turn the Post's web operation around. (Norton, the recently departed web editor, sources previously told us, was stymied in his efforts to do so.)

But just how much digital salvation can one man deliver? Daily insiders said Angelo's "very involved" in his role as their captain, running two meetings a day, venturing out often into the newsroom to talk with editors, etc.

"He seems pretty present," said one staffer.

It's not exactly a question of being in two places at once. The Daily is headquartered on the ninth floor of the News Corp building on Sixth Avenue, which it shares with the Post's features, op-ed, travel and real-estate desks, as well as the art department.

But aside from the bathrooms and elevators, there's not much else the two publications share within the space. The glass doors leading into The Daily's newsroom are covered in a kind of blue translucent sticky paper to match the publication's signature color, a touch that has led to jokes among Post staffers that secrets are brewing inside that the Post isn't meant to know about. Originally, there was one kitchen in the space, but a second was added as if to deflect any possibility that reporters might rifle through each other's trash cans or eavesdrop on lunch-time chatter to steal scoops. The other departments of the Post are only one floor up on 10, but rarely does the twain meet at all between The Daily and the main Post newsroom.

The Daily, meanwhile, which launched a little over a year ago and is reportedly on track to break even in five years, is still working to become a louder voice in the national conversation. But it's had some big scoops to date—including several in recent recent weeks, like its expose on "pink slime" in school lunches, and an exclusive with the female solider at the center of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

For his part, Angelo has said that he doesn't much care how The Daily does in the media-elite echo chamber. Perhaps nypost.com should consider trying to steal that part of Angelo's formula; it's done their rivals at the News website lots of good.