Jul 30, 201210:18 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: The Newhouses vs. The Advocate
Last week the Manship family, which owns Baton Rouge's Advocate newspaper, offered New Orleans seven courses; meanwhile the Newhouses offered the city a bone.
That bone is a promised day-after-a-Saints-game special tabloid edition, which will be published throughout the Saints’ season. The publication will deal with football only, so should World War III break out on a Sunday you will not see the details in The Times-Picayune.
Meanwhile, the Manships have announced that they will provide a daily Advocate in New Orleans. To do that they will reopen a New Orleans bureau and have a front page targeted to the city. (Which does not mean that the rest will be irrelevant. The Advocate is pretty good on politics, sports and state news. Also, there is plenty of former T-P talent available.)
Also last week Tom Benson sent the Newhouses a letter urging them to sell the newspaper to him. Again the answer was “no.” Senator David Vitter urged the family to sell too and used some of the strongest langauage yet:
•Maybe you truly believe that your new model for the Times-Picayune will serve the region well. I do not. More importantly, no citizen of the region whom I've spoken to about this does. And I literally mean no one. This includes everyone at the Times-Picayune itself that I've spoken to.
• As a single member of our Congressional delegation, I actually have far more Facebook followers than your whole enterprise.
• from a pure business perspective, you're about to get smoked. The Advocate and others are moving in to fill the void you are creating. And TP subscribers, including me, will be eager to cheer them on by trading our subscriptions.
As for Steve “No Noise” Newhouse’s futuristic vision that we would be dazzled by digital, that’s happening, but not from his company but because of several independent websites that have started. Rather than being the main source of digital news, NOLA.com will be just another app button.
For the Manships, coming into New Orleans will be a daring venture and much of the success will depend on what kind of home delivery system they can establish. To their credit, at least they are local and can feel our pain and our pride.
That’s far more than can be said about the competition.