New Orleans Times-Picayune to cut print edition to 3 days per week, launches ugliest website ever

Sad news for the newspaper world today, and especially sad news for residents of New Orleans.

I have some family in New Orleans, and I’ve read the New Orleans Times-Picayune enough to know that it has some issues. But the paper and its website did simply an amazing job during and after Hurricane Katrina, and they’ve been a vital platform for the community in the years since. Ironically, the permanent population loss in the aftermath of Katrina contributed today’s bad news.

Today there’s this at today: New digitally focused company launches this fall with beefed up online coverage; The Times-Picayune will move this fall to three printed papers a week

From that piece (emphases added):

NOLA Media Group will significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspaper will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. A second new company, Advance Central Services, will print and deliver the newspaper. Both of the new companies are owned by Advance Publications.

The decision to form a new company signals a change in the way news is delivered to an increasingly wired New Orleans area audience, said Mathews. Jim Amoss, currently editor of The Times-Picayune, will run the combined content operation of NOLA Media Group.

“The Times-Picayune, under Jim’s direction, is one of the finest newspapers in the country,” said Mathews, “and is the number one news site in Louisiana. Our best path to success lies in a digitally focused organization that combines the award-winning journalism of The Times-Picayune and the strength of”

Mathews said the three days of publication were chosen in part so that the print edition is distributed across the entire week, but also because Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays have proved to be the most valuable days for the newspaper’s advertisers.

Today's NOLA homepage -- really?

Of course, it’s likely that there are literally thousands of Times-Picayune daily readers — including many who are older, disabled, or lower income — who have regular access to print editions but do not have access to the online edition. I do think that digital is the wave of the future — it seems pretty obvious — but I’m stunned that a metro area of over 1 million would see its major newspaper cut back to 3 days a week.

And I’m even more stunned by the sheer ugliness and user unfriendliness of this new website. From the landing screen at the New York Times, without even scrolling down, one can read stock summaries and link to 10 or more articles; The Washington Post offers even more links than that to quality content from the landing screen on a decent sized monitor. The Savannah Morning News website offers a changing column of latest headlines plus easy links to top stories in all the sections.

Without scrolling, this cluttered new homepage offers a grand total of 3 links to substantive articles.

From the Associated Press:

Advance also said Thursday that three major daily newspapers that it owns in Alabama will switch to publishing three days a week as part of a new focus on online news: The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Press-Register of Mobile.

Advance also owns The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.; The Plain Dealer in Cleveland; and The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

Steve Myers, a managing editor at the Poynter Institute, said the Times-Picayune would become the largest metropolitan newspaper to shift away from daily circulation.

“Advertising is suffering at many newspapers, and the Picayune has had difficulty because the population didn’t come back after Katrina,” Myers said.

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