Late last night, the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog dropped a bomb by reporting that the New Orleans Times-Picayune was facing major cuts and would reduce publication from daily editions to three times a week.
The Pulitzer prize winning daily that survived the Civil War and Hurricane Katrina appears to have been brought to her knees by a media company—Advance Communications—owned by the Newhouse family. That company owns newspapers all over the country, including dailies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Oregon.
It also happens to own the three major dailies published in Alabama—the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register.
Earlier this week, those three papers’ combined website underwent a massive restructuring, completely changing the format and layout of the site and its iconic homepage. Ominously, the Times-Pic’s own website—NOLA.com—recently saw its website undergo a similar transformation.
Does that portend major changes in the three papers serving the largest metropolitan areas in the state of Alabama?
Jim Romenesko—a prominent blogger on all things print media and journalism—says he’s heard that it does.
The Mobile Press-Register is the oldest daily paper in the state of Alabama. Founded in 1813, it’s even older than the Times-Pic, which was established in 1837.
Its former publisher is Ricky Mathews, who was named publisher of the Times-Pic in March.
Interestingly enough, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Press-Register printed editions of the Times-Pic at its facility in downtown Mobile and transported the papers to the New Orleans area for distribution.
While saddening, these changes are a sign of the times. People just don’t get their news from a printed daily paper anymore. By the time a story is printed in the wee hours of the morning and delivered to your door or favorite newsstand, it’s ancient history. Many publishing companies sticking to old-school journalism and publishing norms exacerbate their plight by ignoring the wishes of consumers by telling readers what they should be reading instead of giving them what they want to read. Consumers respond by choosing other sources of news, including the rapidly growing social media networks, message boards and blogs like the one you’re reading now.
Times, they are a changin’.
UPDATE: Shortly after this entry was published, Advance published the following announcement at al.com:
A new digitally focused media company — the Alabama Media Group, which will include The Birmingham News, the Press-Register of Mobile, The Huntsville Times and al.com — will launch this fall to serve readers and advertisers across the state, according to Cindy Martin, who will become president of the new organization.
The change is designed to reshape how Alabama's leading media companies deliver award-winning local news, sports and entertainment coverage in an increasingly digital age. The Alabama Media Group will dramatically expand its news-gathering efforts around the clock, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspapers will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.