Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Times-Picayune announces it will cut print schedule back to 3 days; a new "digitally focused" company is created though no new digital initiatives are announced

The New Orleans Times-Picayune this morning, reacting to a story in the New York Times by media reporter David Carr, confirmed that it was reducing its print schedule to three days. Ashton Phelps, Jr., publisher of the paper that can trace its origins back to 1837, said a new company will be formed with the move, NOLA Media Group.

According to Phelps, described the new company as "a digitally focused company that will launch this fall and that will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers. NOLA Media Group will be led by Ricky Mathews."

He then dropped the bombshell: "Also this fall, The Times-Picayune will begin publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only."

The story by Carr that led to the announcement said that the strategy that would be taken was modeled on the Ann Arbor News, where the company killed off the print paper and went to an online-only approach. That left the city which is home to the University of Michigan without a daily newspaper.
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Newhouse, a part of Advance Publications which includes Condé Nast, has been far behind both its magazine sister division and other newspapers in exploring alternatives to web-based publishing. The Nola.com apps, for instance, are (as the name implies) simply smartphone or tablet versions of the website. The NOLA.com for iPad offers a tablet version of the website with no pay model involved. Because the app mimics the website, it resides outside the Newsstand.

This same model is used for many of the other Newhouse digital products, though they have also launched replica editions of some of their newspapers inside the App Store.

The announcement this morning may have promised a "digitally focused" company, but it should be noted that the announcement does not mention the launch of any new digital products, or change to its current website.

The Gambit, the local alternative weekly, reacted immediately to the NYT story with its own post early this morning (very early this morning!).
The fear in the T-P newsroom this week has been that the paper would follow "the Michigan model." In Michigan, Newhouse cut the print frequency of several state papers, wrapping them into "MLive.com" — the website that serves as the papers' online partners, much as NOLA.com is the online partner of The Times-Picayune.

It was MLive.com that first rolled out the internally despised "yellow journalism" design that was recently rolled out with great fanfare by NOLA.com. Slammed by readers, the "yellow journalism" template has also been unpopular with the reporters whose work appears there.

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