New Orleans Times-Picayune May 24, 2012The New Orleans Times-Picayune, a fixture in the Big Easy since 1837, will slash its staff and production schedule, going from 7 to 3 days a week beginning this fall. The body count isn’t known yet, but estimates are that at least a third of the staff will be fired. Those who stay are expected to take pay cuts.

The Times-Picayune, which is owned by Newhouse Newspapers, is apparently taking a page from the Ann Arbor News, another Newhouse paper that cut its frequency to twice-weekly more than three years ago. The Detroit Media Partnership was the first to eliminate daily frequency in late 2008. Many smaller papers have since quietly cut money-losing Monday, Tuesday and Saturday editions.

The strategy is aimed at preserving the newspaper brand – and a viable business – by eliminating unprofitable editions. The newspaper will continue to be published on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, which are typically the three most profitable days of the week.

The New York Times‘ David Carr was the first to break the story in an item published just before midnight last night. Ricky Mathews, who will become president of the newly created NOLA Media Group, confirmed the news in a statement this morning that contained the usual sugar-coating. “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,” he said. The only enhancements specified were to food and dining coverage.

All the spin-doctoring in the world doesn’t change the fact that New Orleans will soon become the second major U.S. city without a daily newspaper.

Publishers are struggling with strategies to preserve their brands while transitioning to a digital-mostly strategy, which typically requires between one-third and one-quarter the staff of a printed newspaper. U.S. newspaper revenues have plummeted to levels not seen since the Truman administration on an inflation-adjusted basis, and there’s no indication the trend is likely to turn around. The thinking in New Orleans is that frequency cutbacks can keep the brand in front of readers while enabling the cost reductions to take place and still preserving enough margin to invest in new digital products.

The Times-Picayune won two Pulitzer prizes in 1997 and two more in 2006 for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Former staff members include William Faulkner and O. Henry.


Update: As noted in the comments, The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and Huntsville Times will also reduce frequency to three days a week. They’ll become part of a “new digitally focused media company” called the Alabama Media Group. Read more on Al.com.


Marketplace Radio’s Kai Ryssdal interviews Chris Rose, who worked at the paper for 25 years and helped it win two Pulitzers for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.


We were interviewed on Marketplace as part of its coverage of this story.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 24th, 2012 at 2:30 pm and is filed under Business News, BusinessModel, Layoffs, Newspapers, OnlineMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Comments

  1. May 24, 2012 @ 6:09 pm



    Same arrangement announced at The Birmingham News, Mobile Press Register and The Huntsville Times.

    Posted by InBHAM
  2. June 3, 2012 @ 6:55 pm



    And we back to the slow creep down the cliff edge…

    Eventually the division will be made by survivors who don’t over extend themselves beyond the economic survival range and those who did…

    Posted by msbpodcast
  3. February 21, 2013 @ 12:29 pm



    Actually, New Orleans DOES have a daily newspaper. It’s just not the Times-Picayune. The Baton Rouge Advocate (http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans) now has a daily New Orleans edition.

    I was not a fan of the Times-Picayune — they were too biased. For example, years ago, when Marc Morial (son of Ernest “Dutch” Morial) ran for mayor, he had a very well-spoken-of opponent, Donald Mintz, who was doing very well in the polls. In the last few days of the race, the Times-Picayune sat on a story about Morial checking himself into an emergency room because of a cocaine overdose. If they had published it, Morial would have lost the election. Instead, he won the election. The T-P said that they sat on the story so as not to influence the election. BALONEY!

    Posted by Jim