Almost a year ago, New Orleans’ Times-Picayune cut staff, announced that it would stop publishing a daily newspaper in favor of three days a week and tired to pivot to digital first at NOLA.com.
A year into the process The Columbia Journalism Review calls strategic decisions made over the last 12 months a “rolling disaster" while the New York Times’ David Carr calls pretty much everything to do with the Picayune "a jaw-dropping blunder”.
But the Picayune isn’t done. Advance Publications, the paper’s owner, has announced the paper will be a paper. Again. Sort of. But in a different format. Probably because The Advocate, the Baton Rouge daily that’s just set up shop in New Orleans, is looking to eat the Picayune’s lunch.
David Carr tries to explain the Picayune’s return to print:
The new distribution plan is hard to explain, but I will do my best.
On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, a broadsheet called The Times-Picayune will be available for home delivery and on the newsstands for 75 cents. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a tabloid called TPStreet will be available only on newsstands for 75 cents.
In addition, a special electronic edition of TPStreet will be available to the three-day subscribers of the home-delivered newspaper. On Saturdays, there will be early print editions of the Sunday Times-Picayune with some breaking news and some Sunday content.
There’s more, but you get the idea — or not. It’s an array of products, frequencies and approaches that is difficult to explain, much less market.
The move was clearly defensive, unveiled the day before John Georges, the new owner of The Advocate, announced that it would expand its incursion into New Orleans.
If that leaves you shaking your head, try this take by Kevin Allman at The Gambit:
The digitally-focused NOLA Media Group, which cut back print publication of The Times-Picayune to three days a week last year, continued to innovate today by announcing a new plan to print on the days it doesn’t produce a print product, bringing the company up to 7-day-a-week publication, according to an announcement by NOLA Media Group Vice President of Content Jim Amoss.
The report, which is not from The Onion, says the new product, to be called “TPStreet,” will launch this summer in newsboxes around the city and cost 75 cents, just like the daily paper, which it will not be, because it is more innovative than that…
…The innovative publication is in response to “a repeated request” from home-delivery subscribers to get a delivered daily paper, but it will not be home delivered, [President and Publisher Ricky] Mathews said.
So, The Advocate’s is trying to invade and the Picayune is playing oddball defense.
"Our hope is that we will be treated to an invigorating old-time press war between The Advocate and The Times-Picayune," Jed Horne, a former editor at The Times-Picayune tells Carr, “but of course, it could end up being two dinosaurs fighting over the last mud hole on an overheated planet.”
Let’s hope not.