Times-Picayune cuts print runs, focuses on digital

Beginning in the autumn, New Orleans will become the largest city in the United States without a daily newspaper.

The Times-Picayune will end its 175-year run as a daily and switch to printing only Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and at the same time ramp up its digital offerings, the Pulitzer Prize-winning paper stated in an announcement last week.
“For us, this isn’t about print versus digital, this is about creating a very successful multi-platform media company that addresses the ever-changing needs of our readers, our online users and our advertisers,” Randy Siegel, president of local digital strategy for Advance Publications, which owns the paper, told The Associated Press. “This change is not easy, but it’s essential for us to remain relevant.”
“The loss of a daily newspaper is a great blow to any city.” a Forbes article noted. “Print is not only valuable for sentimental reasons and its ability to turn out more thoughtful journalism, but also its ability to reach citizens without internet access.”
Newsonomics analyst Ken Doctor stated he believes Advance Publications’ move will put the newspaper at a disadvantage.

“For longtime print readers, this is going to be really jarring, because many readers don’t use the paper’s website on a regular basis,” Doctor wrote. “This is a publisher pulling the plug on the seven-day habit. It’s a huge unknown how many readers will stick around.”
Despite the Times Picayune’s drastic circulation decline since Hurricane Katrina (261,000 in 2005 vs. 132,000 in March 2012) Forbes contributor Micheline Maynard pointed out that the newspaper is still very popular, with a 75.5 percent penetration rate in New Orleans.

“Obviously, that figure doesn’t translate directly to sales, and high penetration rates haven’t saved other newspapers, but it would seem to denote just how important the Times-Pic is to this community, and that it was still successful,” she stated. And, although times may be tough, the paper was able to pay employee bonuses in 2010 and 2011.
However, Advance Publications’ strategy doesn’t include eliminating some print runs. It also includes staff reductions, centralising operations and merging print and digital into a single operation, according to Wall Street Journal’s interview with Steven Newhouse, chairman of Advance.net, the corporate digital arm of Advance Publications.
The Times Picayune isn’t the first newspaper to forego printing some days. The Christian Science Monitor now reports only online, while the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, published in a partnership by Gannett Co. and Media News Group Inc., pulled back home delivery of those papers to three days a week, Wall Street Journal reported.

Image: Poynter

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