It’s the afternoon before Memorial Day weekend, and I’m sure most people have better things to do than to sit around reading media news. So I’ll be brief on the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s decision to cut back its print edition to three days a week.
First, taken in isolation, I think it’s a good idea. Print is inefficient and expensive, and newspaper companies ought to invest in journalism, not printing and distribution. Print ads are still far more lucrative than their online equivalent. But if the diminishing number of advertisers can be squeezed into fewer editions, then that makes a lot of sense.
It is a little strange that New Orleans will be the first major city to try such an experiment, given that 36 percent of residents are not online. But management is promising to beef up those three days’ worth of print editions, so I don’t see any harm. A daily print newspaper is a cultural artifact that doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense anymore.
Second, and unfortunately, we can’t take this in isolation. It seems that Advance, the corporate chain that owns the Times-Picayune, is cutting not just its print edition but also its coverage of the city. (Advance is also doing the same thing at three of its papers in Alabama.)
Reporters are being laid off. Jim Romenesko yesterday heard that there has been talk of drastic salary cuts for those who stay — even though the paper has been profitable and has paid bonuses in recent years. The paper’s website is a disgrace.
This could have been an exciting day for New Orleans if it meant that the Times-Picayune was embracing a bright digital future. Unfortunately, it has all the appearance of a corporate chain trying to bleed dry one of its most celebrated newspapers.
Page-one image from “Today’s Front Pages” at the Newseum.