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David Manship

Baton Rouge,
Publisher, The Advocate

Baton Rouge Daily takes Flying Leap into New Orleans

We were just sitting around minding our own business when this happened,” Baton Rouge newspaper publisher David Manship jokes, recalling the bombshell that the Times-Picayune in New Orleans dropped last spring.

At first he and his relatives in the business tried to ignore the news that the downriver daily planned to cut its printing schedule to three days a week. But then a group of Big Easy business owners made an impassioned plea.

“They reached out to us and said ‘New Orleans deserves a daily newspaper,’” Manship says. “They asked us to consider distributing a New Orleans paper.”

Manship consulted with other members of the family-owned business, including his brother Richard Manship. They first talked about distributing the Advocate, in its existing form, in newspaper boxes around New Orleans. But soon they evolved toward the idea of a Crescent City edition.

“We decided the heck with it; let’s just do it and see what happens,” he says.

Today, three months into the 170-year-old Baton Rouge daily’s foray into New Orleans, the newspaper’s expansion continues, with some early surprises.

“Initially, we thought if we could get to 10,000 subscriptions in New Orleans in the first six months, then we’d have the possibility to survive,” Manship says. “But we had 10,000 in the first six days – it just overwhelmed us.”

Until last fall, Manship, whose family has owned the Advocate since 1909, stood at the helm of a successful daily newspaper that served primarily the Capital City area. He was almost 40 years into a career that began after he graduated from the Sewanee Military Academy in Tennessee, did a four-year stint in the Army and trained at DeVry Institute of Technology in Dallas.

His father enticed him to join the family business in 1973, and Manship eventually put his technical training to work, leading the paper’s conversion to digital typesetting. He rose through the ranks in various departments and took over as publisher when his father retired. Today, both he and his brother have a son working at the paper.

When opportunity arose suddenly in New Orleans last spring, the Advocate had to move fast. Managers had just weeks to hire New Orleans staff and prepare a newspaper launch in order to capitalize on the Times-Picayune’s Oct. 1 schedule reduction. “We weren’t taking baby steps; we were jumping off the bridge,” Manship says.

Initially, they planned a six-month trial for the New Orleans edition, but with the Advocate already distributing  20,000 papers per day to homes and boxes in and around the city, that short-term commitment is off the table.

Manship looks for the New Orleans edition to start turning a profit soon. “We think we’ll be doing well by the middle of 2013,” he says. “We’re in New Orleans now, and we’re staying.”

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