I wrote last year on this blog about the dramatic decision by Advance Publications to reduce print production of the New Orleans Times-Picayune to three days a week (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday).
After making such dramatic cuts, laying off a significant amount of its newsroom, and failing to establish the sort of dynamic website that seemed to be promised, Advance Publications has now beat a hasty retreat. They’ll be publishing a printed tabloid on three additional days in the face of increased competition.
In other words, the legendary Times-Picayune lost its own monopoly.
David Carr has a scathing criticism of Advance’s decisions today at the NYT: Newspaper Monopoly That Lost Its Grip
Carr’s piece is well worth a full read, but here’s a snippet:
Clearly, commanding a market to change on a dime because it suits your business plan does not mean readers will obey. Just ask Advance Publications, owned by the Newhouse family, which is back to where it started in New Orleans with The Times-Picayune.
Except that the name Times-Picayune, which had stood for quality and civic constancy for decades, does not mean the same thing anymore. The vaunted Web site that was to be the lifeblood of the new enterprise remains a creaky mess, and the newsroom has been denuded of remarkably talented people.
Several of those people, including the two former managing editors of the newspapers, have gone to work for The Advocate, the Baton Rouge daily that has introduced a New Orleans edition. With a new, rich owner, it has taken aim at the market The Times-Picayune once owned.
Advance made its decisions up against some very dark trends in the business, but they were made with the dead-eyed arrogance of a monopolist in a much-changed world. Columbia Journalism Review described The Times-Picayune’s strategy of the last year as a “rolling disaster.”
It’s been a jaw-dropping blunder to watch. Advance misjudged the marketplace — the whole city and state went ballistic when the changes were announced — and failed to execute a modern digital strategy. Now it is in full retreat with new competition.
Click here for the recent CJR piece noted above.
We’re a long way from finding out the future of daily print journalism — and it seems inevitable that some print products are going to face some dark days ahead. But there’s clearly still ample demand for daily print newspapers in major American cities like New Orleans.