Advance digital exec hints that other papers may follow Times-Picayune lead

American Journalism Review | Capital New York

Randy Siegel, Advance Publications' president of local digital strategy, tells Michaelle Bond that the changes coming to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and to the company's Alabama papers may affect other publications. "My guess is there will be variations in the plans that are formulated in each of the Advance markets," he said at the end of a piece in which he also vents his frustration: "Most of the national media coverage has missed the point of what we're doing and why we're doing it."

In New Orleans, for instance, the plans envision a high-tempo digital newsroom and a three-day-per-week print newspaper in a city with a "profoundly print habit," where 36 percent of residents didn't have Internet access at home as recently as 2010. Siegel says the tall-orderness of the decision didn't deter Advance: "Not evolving was not going to be a winning strategy," he tells Bond.

You probably could fill eight newspapers a week with the amount of writing done about the Times-Picayune changes. Kevin Allman has to fill only one: The Gambit, the New Orleans alt-weekly he edits. Joe Pompeo talks with Allman about his devotion to covering the Times-Picayune changes. Allman didn't mind that The Times' David Carr beat him on breaking the news about the changes, though he did drive around all night afterward reporting on them, filing his first piece at 2:40 in the morning.

Allman doesn't share Siegel's optimism about the dead-tree edition's evolution:

"Going to three days a week raises some class issues about who can read the news," he said. "We have some of the poorest broadband penetration in the nation. And I think it discounts our very large elderly population, who've been fiercely loyal to the Picayune for most of their lives. I think the impact on them is going to be tremendous."

Allman says Gambit's not adjusting its coverage plans yet: "I want to see what [Newhouse parent] Advance [Publications] does over there before we can decide what the city needs, and what it may not be getting in terms of news coverage," he tells Pompeo.

Also: A Poynter tipster poynts out that a petition urging Advance "to maintain the publishing frequency and proud legacy of The Times-Picayune" has received more than 6,350 signatures.

Related: ‘I’m not going to read the paper online’: New Orleans photographer documents locals reading The Times-Picayune

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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