The Advocate's New House
When the Crawfish Eyeballed the Lobster
NEW ORLEANS – Thursday, May 2, was one of those days when the big news was the news business itself. A saga that began in 2012 when The Times-Picayune stunned the community by cutting back from seven to three editions a week and that would take a dramatic turn when the Baton Rouge based The Advocate entered the market, took a totally unforeseeable bounce this week with the announcement that the Advocate had bought the Picayune and its website, Nola.com. The T-P has been published by the New York based Advance publishing company owned by the Newhouse chain. At the time of its entry into New Orleans The Advocate was owned by the Manship family of Baton Rouge but was bought by John and Dathel Georges of New Orleans. In terms of ownership sizes, the crawfish bought the lobster.
Below is an announcement published earlier by The Advocate. As an observer of the media scene we thank Newhouse for the good years it had as publisher of The Times-Picayune and we congratulate the Georges for their commitment to maintaining quality journalism.
The Advocate Official Announcement:
New Orleans Advocate owners Dathel and John Georges have purchased The Times-Picayune and its nola.com website from the Newhouse family’s Advance Local Media.
The Advocate will publish a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper in New Orleans using the brands and features of both publications. The new paper will debut in June. The two papers’ websites will be combined under the nola.com brand around the same time.
At a time when local media companies are struggling and have cut back on news content, New Orleans has been an outlier, with the 177-year-old Advocate and the 182-year-old Picayune both covering the community for the past seven years.
“New Orleans has never lost its love for a daily newspaper,” John Georges said. “I want to thank Advance for working with us to ensure a strong print and online news company for years to come.”
The Advocate will be expanding its New Orleans news, advertising and circulation staff by hiring from current nola.com and Times-Picayune employees and will increase its coverage of suburban communities, sports and arts and entertainment, and also improve its opinion pages.
It will also add more contract carriers to handle the increase in subscribers. The paper will be printed at The Advocate’s state of the art printing plant in Baton Rouge. The New Orleans Advocate is headquartered at a renovated historic building at 840 St. Charles Avenue, and the joint publication will be operated out of that office.
Both Advance and Georges Media are privately held, and the sale price and terms were not disclosed.
“Advance Local is very reluctant to leave New Orleans, our loyal readers and our talented employees,” said Randy Siegel, CEO of Advance Local. “But we are confident that The Advocate will continue our history of excellent local journalism and community service now and in the future.”
The move was supported by Ashton Phelps, Jr., publisher of The Times-Picayune for three decades, who retired in 2012.
“The Times-Picayune and The Advocate have played key roles in Louisiana history. The Pulitzer Prize Board, which gives the highest awards in journalism, has recognized both newspapers,” he said. “Both Newhouse and Georges family members have told me they want the best journalism possible for the New Orleans area. This change, supported by both families, will hopefully give the best chance for that in the long term. I wish my personal very best to my former colleagues at both The Times-Picayune and The Advocate.”
John Georges said when the new paper launches, current Picayune subscribers will be offered options for seven-day delivery.
While the Picayune was not for sale, management for both companies have had discussions over the years about how best to preserve quality journalism in New Orleans. Those talks
accelerated in December when Georges met in New York with Advance executives. After months of considering options, Advance decided to sell both the paper and the web site to The Advocate.
The single newspaper will carry the flags of both The Times-Picayune and the New Orleans Advocate, and will have the features of both, as the Georges promise to keep the legacy of both papers.
The changes do not impact The Advocate’s operations in Baton Rouge or Acadiana, where the newsroom recently doubled its staff by hiring six reporters and editors from The Daily Advertiser.
The Advocate was already Louisiana’s biggest newspaper and has the largest newsroom in the state. It was honored with its first Pulitzer Prize earlier this month. In combination with the Picayune, The Advocate will give advertisers an enormous reach across south Louisiana, from Lafayette to Slidell. Nola.com will reach more than 8 million people per month nationally.
The current leaders of The New Orleans Advocate will continue to oversee the combined news organization, including Publisher Dan Shea, President Judi Terzotis and Editor Peter Kovacs.
For approximately the next month, both The Picayune and nola.com will operate as they do now. When the new paper and web site debut, it will have all the features, including comics and puzzles, that appear in both papers. “Our goal is to preserve the best of the legacy of the two papers,” Shea said.
Terzotis said that before the launch of the new newspaper and web site, the Advocate sales and circulation staffs will be contacting current advertisers and subscribers toensure a seamless transition.
The sale marks the end of Advance’s half century involvement in New Orleans. Samuel I. Newhouse purchased The Times-Picayune from local owners in 1962 and his family improved the quality of news coverage so much that the newsroom won four Pulitzer prizes.
During Hurricane Katrina, the Picayune was surrounded by floodwaters but continued to cover the unfolding disaster online, a celebrated feat of journalism that garnered two Pulitzers.
The New Orleans Advocate is staffed mainly by Picayune veterans who worked at the Picayune during Katrina, including Managing Editors Martha Carr and Gordon Russell and Vice President/Advertising and Marketing Sara Barnard.
The Advocate as a whole employs more than 110 journalists, a number that dwarfs the size of newsrooms in much larger papers.
John Georges owns other Louisiana businesses including Imperial Trading, a convenience store suppler with more than $2.5 billion in annual sales and half ownership interest in Galatoire’s, a James beard award winning restaurant.
7 key facts about the sale
As reported by the ADVOCATE STAFF
— The Advocate will publish a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper in New Orleans using the brands and features of both publications. The new paper will debut in June.
— The two papers’ websites will be merged under the nola.com brand around the same time.
— Owner John and Dathel Georges said when the new paper launches, current Picayune subscribers will be offered options for seven-day delivery.
— The single newspaper will carry the flags of both The Times-Picayune and the New Orleans Advocate, and will have the features of both, as the Georges promise to keep the legacy of both papers.
— For approximately the next month (as of May 2), both The Picayune and nola.com will operate as they do now. When the new paper and web site debut, it will have all the features, including comics and puzzles, that appear in both papers.
— The Advocate will be expanding its New Orleans news, advertising and circulation staff by hiring from current nola.com and Times-Picayune employees and will increase its coverage of suburban communities, sports and arts and entertainment, and also improve its opinion pages.
— Before the launch of the new newspaper and web site, the Advocate sales and circulation staffs will be contacting current advertisers and subscribers to ensure a seamless transition.
More details will be shared in the coming weeks.