Last Thursday marked one year since John Georges officially purchased the Baton Rouge-based newspaper and began creating a New Orleans edition. To mark the occasion there was a full-page letter signed by Georges and his wife, Dathel.
“Like many of you, we were angry and disappointed when New Orleans lost its daily newspaper,” the announcement said. “And with the purchase of The Advocate we were determined to give New Orleans the seven-day newspaper it deserves.” After detailing progress made with the paper during the past year the announcement concluded by saying: "Our work is not finished, and in the coming year, we promise to improve our paper and website, expand our coverage and celebrate the great community of New Orleans."
While the improvement to the overall editorial product is easily quantifiable, especially as some of the T-P’s best former talent moved to the Advocate, left to rumor has been the circulation growth. I posed the question to Dan Shea, another T-P alumnus, who is the Advocate’s president and COO. He said that the newspaper’s home delivery is now at 27,500 and increase of 85 percent since a subscription drive was launched last September. According to Shea street sales have increased about 70 percent. (He cautioned that a media audit coming out in a few days will show a few hundred fewer subscription copies since that number uses as six-month average.)
“After a year, I think we are near where I thought we would be,” he added. “Summer is the time for a cyclical downtown in the newspaper industry, but we still have net subscription gains each week. It¹s remarkable really. I'm proud that we have not discounted our $18.95 price, as it shows people really appreciate a seven day paper.”
As for advertising: "Our ad revenues have grown at an even faster clip. We deliver a great demographic of readers who can¹t wait to read their paper. That is a great vehicle for our advertisers."
Making comparisons with The Times-Picayune is difficult though it is assumed that having started with a higher subscription base from its time as a daily that the former daily maintains higher numbers. Its web site offers a bevy of subscription bargains and stories abound about subscribers who have wanted to cancel being offered a counter-deal. The newspaper also has the advantage of tradition and familiarity. It defenders will also discuss nola.com website hits, which, they say, are the highest in the state, as being the most relevant number for the dissemination of news.
Newspapers versus websites and the comparative virtues of each is an argument that continues and the Advocate plans to enhance its web converge as well. To isolate the discussion though to the virtues of urban newspapesr and to the progress made with each over the last 12 months, The New Orleans Advocate won the year. That's especially significant since major changes under Georges really didn't start kicking in until late September to early October.
There is some good talent at The Times-Picayune and the ability to put out good newspapers. It is just that the public is still adjusting to exactly what the good ole Times-Picayune has become. Which name creates the most sentiment; The New Orleans Advocate or nola.com/The Times-Picayune? I will be anxious to see the numbers for year two.