Tagged: newspapers

Bad news for newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama

David Carr reported on Wednesday night that big, bad changes were coming to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and this news was confirmed in a memo sent to staff members on Thursday morning: The paper will be cutting staff and it will only publish three days a week.

We don’t know the extent of the staff cuts, though the memo does confirm they are coming. We do know about the decision to stop being a daily newspaper. The Times-Picayune, which won a Pulitzer Prize (and shared another) for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, will only publish on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. A new company, called the NOLA Media Group, will run NOLA.com and the newspaper; a second new company will print and deliver the paper. Both companies will be owned by Times-Picayune owner Advance Publications (a.k.a. Newhouse family).

Head a bit east and you’ll find the same story happening with Newhouse papers in Alabama. The three newspapers published in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville are going to the same schedule of printing three days a week (also Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays). Just like in the memo announcing the Times-Picayune changes, the memo discussing the Alabama papers mentions that staff cuts are looming.

I have long been of the opinion that more and more newspapers are going to have to do away with the notion of print editions arriving seven days a week. For as long as a publication has a large enough audience share to warrant the print edition, it makes sense to keep printing; at least until the digital audience becomes a large enough segment to make it financially sustainable (and so this segment needs to be large not only in numbers but also in ability to create profit, which is of course the major problem facing so many of these publications) (so I am saying here that once enough people are regularly visiting/relying on the online editions rather than the print edition, and once these papers have found some sort of financial stability through online ads and subscriptions and a paywall — the former being much easier to accomplish than the latter). The key here is these publications figuring out how to monetize online content, so that newspapers can shift to being online-only without having to also drastically reduce staff and costs (as we are seeing happening in New Orleans and Alabama).

In an ideal world, papers would be able to find enough profits online so that they could live without a published edition while still producing the same quantity and quality of journalism; unfortunately, in the real world, newspapers (and staffers, and surrounding citizens) are forced to make severe changes owing only to economics. It is a shame for these employees and for these readers.

The Small Town’s Own Little New Media Experiment

The Register Citizen of Torrington, Conn., is a small-town newspaper trying to reinvent itself in the digital world:

At the new offices of The Register Citizen in this faded old mill town, there’s a sign out front welcoming residents to come in for coffee and muffins at the Newsroom Café — sort of Starbucks meets “Lou Grant.” Mimeographed fliers reading “Public Welcome!” invite people to walk in and participate in the 4 p.m. story conference. Residents are free to stroll through the newsroom as reporters peck out stories.

The publication, now housed in a renovated factory space, is now aimed at letting “the public see The Register Citizen as its space.” Hence the cafe, public space for bloggers and courses on blogging and journalism that will teach residents how to write and link to the site. The notion of an open-doors publication wouldn’t work everywhere — I’m obviously thinking of major metropolitan cities, if only owing to space and, let’s be honest, can you imagine this working in Manhattan? — but for small towns who need their news, this is an excellent way to deliver it. [NYT]

Google has five million reasons why journalists should love it

Google is a power-mad company led by Lex Luthor and out to destroy newspapers. But they don’t want to kick the battered, weakened shell that the newspaper industry has become. They want to destroy a worthy opponent, making the victory that much sweeter. At least that’s my best guess as to why they donated $5 million bucks to non-profit organizations working on new approaches to news. In all seriousness, I am reminded of James Fallows’s story about the how and why of Google’s efforts to save the ailing industry. [via TechCrunch, and thanks to Matthew Sap for sending that in!]