Thursday, May 24, 2012

Not Such a Big Shocker in the Big Easy

As Times-Picayune, Alabama Papers Go to Three Times a Week, Could Open the Floodgates for Others to Follow Suit

Somebody had to do it. But what's now an exception could become a trend.

The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, along with three Alabama dailies, will only print three times a week--Wednesday, Friday and Sunday--starting in the fall. The papers, all of which are owned by Newhouse's Advance Publications, will allegedly beef up their digital presence.

The news is sad, especially for those of us who still desperately want to turn the pages of a newspaper rather than click to the next story. But it's no longer news that circulation has fallen off a cliff, along with ad dough-re-mi. The Birmingham News, for instance, has seen circulation crater by 29 percent in just five years. With numbers like that you rethink your business model pronto.

As the T-P's noted in its story about the reduction: "the changes coming in the fall were necessitated by revolutionary upheaval in the newspaper industry. These changes made it essential for the news-gathering operation to evolve and become digitally focused..."

Ah, digitally focused. Makes all the sense in the world, right? So, why aren't advertisers convinced? At many newspapers, online ads account for only 10 to 20 percent of revenue. The rest comes from print ads, subscriptions and newsstand sales. It really is an open question of whether you don't print it, they will follow you to the web.

Nonetheless, it's a safe bet that more newspapers will head down this sorry path. They've cut page widths, head counts, news holes while increasing newsstand prices. And yet they still wonder why they're losing readers. If your audience only wants a paper three days a week and your advertisers feel the same, who are you to say no? It does save a lot of trees. Trims payroll too.

Still, it'll be weird for Saints fans not to be able to read about Sunday's game the next day in the paper. Then again, if you're to believe Advance, they've pretty much stopped doing that anyway.

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