Times-Picayune employees could learn next week if they'll be part of NOLA Media Group

Gambit | Ad Age | The New York Times | The Huffington Post

Gambit's Kevin Allman reported that Times-Picayune employees will start hearing next week whether they'll be offered severance packages or job offers at NOLA Media Group, which will run the newspaper and Nola.com. He outlines what reporting and publishing will look like after the company cuts printing to three days a week and focuses online:

Reporters/content providers will move out of The Times-Picayune’s iconic building at 3800 Howard Avenue and into office space in downtown New Orleans, where they will file more frequent and likely smaller stories for NOLA.com, the paper’s online arm. ...

There will be no content that is produced specifically for print, though the company may produce some special sections.

Much of the followup over the holiday weekend focused on what the paper will gain and lose by eliminating daily publication. Last year, The Times-Picayune pulled in $64.7 million in print revenue compared to $5.7 million online, reported Ad Age's Nat Ives. The pullback to three days a week "shouldn't leave its ad revenue any worse off," he wrote, because the newspaper is retaining the days already favored by advertisers.

David Carr's description of those money-losing days is striking:

On days like Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, the newspaper is all but ad-free, so all of the industriousness and skill that go into putting together those issues is noneconomic. The Newhouses are plenty rich, but they are not in the business of underwriting, so they are re-engineering their newspaper division for the long haul.

One reason those newspapers are so thin, writes Harry Shearer on The Huffington Post, is that after national department store chains gobbled up the local ones, they relied less on newspapers to compete for shoppers:

Did any local newspaper oppose the sellouts of local retail icons like Bon Marche in Seattle and Marshall Field's in Chicago? ...

Maybe newspaper owners, beguiled with the premise of buying out or killing their own competition, just thought monopolies were a good idea for retail, too. In any case, we, the readers, were the product -- eyeballs for advertisers. As the advertisers disappeared, we became less valuable. We're now only worth something three days a week.

The other days could fall short of profitability too, writes Jeff Jarvis (who has a long and ongoing relationship with Advance and Newhouse):

That could change again when and if (a) newspaper circulation falls below the critical mass needed to distribute coupons and circulars and (b) local advertisers become more savvy and finally move online themselves. Then printing and distributing paper will become even less profitable, even less sustainable. That’s when print could — mind you, I didn’t say “will” as I’m not predicting the form’s demise; I repeat, “could” — disappear.

By then, newspapers had better be ready. That is, they had better have become digital companies.

Although Carr seems confident that the Times-Picayune will continue to do heavy journalism, he questions whether it will have the same impact when it appears in print a few days a week. Ives looks to Seattle, where the Post-Intelligencer went online-only in 2009. Former reporter and columnist Mike Lewis tells him:

"In the wake of the PI retreating to some degree, other things have moved in and grown ... In aggregate, is the city not covered as well as it used to be? I think it's covered more voluminously but not as deeply.

"It's not always trees that grow back ... It's a lot of scrub."

Related: Unclear whether Times-Picayune will publish on Mondays after Saints games (Gambit) | Halifax's papers in Thibodaux and Houma, La., have no plans to curtail daily publishing (The Daily Comet) | Birmingham News Editor Tom Scarritt to step down this fall (The Birmingham News) | Onus of digital sustainability lies with all journalists (Strange Attractor) | "Decline of print seems to be picking up speed" with cuts at Advance Publications, Canada's Postmedia (GigaOM)

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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