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Yesterday’s News

By Rick Esse on January 25, 2013

I’m a newspaper guy. Always have been. Running a paper route as a kid. Reading box scores every day. I couldn’t live without a daily newspaper. Still can’t.

Which brings me to the recent “60 Minutes” segment about the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Picayune began publication in 1837 at a cost of one picayune – a Spanish coin worth one-sixteenth of a dollar at that time. The word has also come to mean something trivial. But I digress.

Facing reduced circulation and dwindling advertising revenues, the management of the Times-Picayune decided last year to reduce its daily publishing schedule to three days a week. It was the first major U.S. daily to make such a change, and this was no trivial matter to the citizens of New Orleans.

The “60 Minutes” piece addressed the Picayune’s new strategy of focusing on their online publication – NOLA.com – at the expense of the printed version, and the reaction of the community. By and large, the decision was met with outrage.

Jim Amoss, Times-Picayune editor, was not surprised by the outcry. “I’m a product of this community. I understand the sadness, I understand the anger, and we all have something in common. And that is that we’re driven by a passion for this city.”

He went on to say that there aren’t many solutions to the problems facing the newspaper industry today. “Some are walking away and saying, ‘This is an incurable illness.’ Others are actually trying operations that have a good chance of succeeding.”

Ironically, Hurricane Katrina may have been the perfect storm for the transition from newsprint to digital publishing. When the hurricane hit in August of 2005, the brave, dedicated staff of the Times-Picayune holed up in their headquarters while many of the city’s residents were evacuating. They continued to report on the storm’s development and aftermath. For three days, while their printing presses were inoperable, they published an electronic-only version of the paper. The ordeal proved that online publishing is a viable means of communicating with readers.

I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Amoss a few months after Katrina. He spoke frankly about the possibility that New Orleans would never return to its pre-Katrina size and vitality, and his concerns about the future of the Times-Picayune.

The Times-Picayune’s situation illustrates how rapidly communications tools are changing. That’s what makes our field so challenging. We still suggest a presence in traditional print media for many of our clients. But we also evaluate the effectiveness of the online component of these publications, as well as a complementary social media strategy.

I’ve pretty much made the switch to the digital versions of many of the publications I read. But I still enjoy having the Sunday “Star Tribune delivered to my front doorstep. I hear the footsteps coming up the sidewalk about 6 a.m. and the familiar “whump” as the paper lands on the stoop. It still feels good to get a little ink on my fingers once in a while.

About Rick

Rick joined the Neuger Communications Group team in 2009, and is responsible for developing creative and strategic communications solutions for clients in a wide range of industries. With a natural eye for design, color and typography, and a knack for creative writing, Rick has made a career of understanding clients’ needs and developing thoughtful, engaging solutions. Read More »

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