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The Selling of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

 

Optimized-tp-teamIf the Times Picayune does not reverse its recent decision to downsize its print publications in favor of ramping up its digital, some believe the publishing group should sell the New Orleans media property to another who can see the vision and necessity of maintaining the paper daily.

One local activist, Anne Rolfe, is organizing a rally at Rock N Bowl on Monday to urge the owners to retreat or to sell.

In the best of all worlds, it would be great if the TP could in fact stay the course with paper and fast-forward into digital. After all, New Orleans is a city with a large population of readers who are either too old to change their ways or too poor to learn “computer-ese”.

If there ever was a digital divide hovering over the earth, New Orleans would be the epicenter.

Realistically, however, I do not see that much of an option either way.

Digital newspapers are much more centralized in scope. While the content is local or semi-local as per the NOLA.com version, the technology is not. Virtually all of the digital properties look and behave the same.   The overall costs to deliver information is much lower and much quicker than paper. Also, it is so much easier to share, tweet and forward articles in this Facebook-Twitter society than it is to circulate any printed article.

Given this reality plus the fact that our populations are using iphones, ipads, laptops, nooks, kindles and a variety of other technologies to get their real-time fresh information on demand in a format in which readers can interact, the Times Picayune is actually ahead of the rest of the pack, which is a first for anything New Orleans, a city that revels in the past.

But, let’s assume that the TP owners feel the heat and decide to test the market, who would buy?   While we are all fond of our first car, would we buy it and drive it on the maddening highways?

Point being, the TP’s subscription market has shriveled; traditional newspapers are on the wane while electronic is clearly the future. Printing is ever so much more costly per word. And possibly, the most important reason for the switch to digital is the advertisers.

The Internet is the best advertising platform ever devised. It is impossible for an advertiser to get the same bang for the buck. Impossible. The question to ask is whether the advertisers are willing to spend the money on paper in a shrinking market where they cannot come close in targeting their audiences for the prices available? Despite the desires and needs of those who want the daily, in reality, they should make the argument to the media buyers and to their clients, the advertisers.

 

If they believe there is an audience and also feel they can get better value with print, the money will be there for the TP and for its readers no matter who owns the institution.

I believe all of us feel horrible that many of our friends and associates on the TP staff and others associated with the paper are feeling quite uneasy, not knowing if they will have a job or not. Unfortunately, soon all of the journalism world will feel the same.

Perhaps we just need to be realistic. To paraphrase Horace Greely we must “Go Digital, young and old, men and women”.

Surely the young have gone done so. Many of our kids twenty-five and under went to school with a computer room available and are now walking with small electronic communicative machines essentially strapped to their bodies. They can text message better and faster than they can speak. They are products of the age of interactivity where “like” and “friends” become meaningless.

Those older have found the need to go cyber due to work or other social pressures.

So, as all of us are scrambling as we stumble through this latest edition of future shock, what can we do to maintain stability, reach out to those who don’t or won’t go with the new wave? Also, how can we comfortably drive down the roads of the future while maintaining our eyes upon the past seen from our rear view mirrors?

In my view, all of us individuals, the private sector and the public sector, can contribute to the cause to bridge the digital divide while easing the pain for those who prefer or feel they must stay with what works for them best in this new but certainly ongoing battle in Digital World War I.  

The question is whether we have the will, the wisdom and the desire to face this challenge sneering at us all.

The above is the first of a series by Bayoubuzz Publisher Stephen Sabludowsky. Part II focuses upon immediate and far-ranging solutions to the issues raised in this column.

What can be done to make the transition from traditional forms of media to digital platforms easier?

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