For the first time in more than half a century, a major metro daily newspaper is stepping up against the long-revered New Orleans Times-Picayune. It’s a battle between Louisiana’s two largest newspapers, and it’s being closely eyed by media analysts and major newspapers across the nation.

It’s been widely reported that The Advocate has been preparing for the official launch of its daily New Orleans edition, the timing of which coincides with The Times-Picayune’s start of a three-day-a-week print edition and a big shift to digital news. In return, The Times-Picayune decided to start its own operations in Baton Rouge.

The decision by Times-Pic owner Advance Publications/Nola Media Group to scale back its daily print newspaper has sparked an outrage in the Crescent City, and it’s an outcry that’s been unique as other cities going through the same digital transformation have not experienced nearly the same level of backlash from residents.

An Associated Press report published on ABC News’ website notes that the T-P/Advo situation is a history in the making that’s got the full attention of the newspaper industry as it unfolds:
Nola Media is telling readers the print edition will be familiar, complete and even better. Prototype pages included an expanded opinion section and color comics for the Wednesday edition, which will carry three days’ worth of comics and crossword puzzles.

The Advocate has built its reputation on accountability reporting in state government and coverage of Louisiana State University, particularly school sports.

Both newspapers have steadily shifted to online news.

Edward Atorino, a media industry analyst at Benchmark Co., said other newspapers in major metropolitan markets will closely watch The Times-Picayune’s experiment.

Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show paid circulation for The Times-Picayune at just under 155,000 for Sunday and more than 134,000 daily. It has never come close to the more than 257,000 figure prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The paper won two Pulitzers for its coverage of Katrina.

The Advocate hopes to grow its print audience by 20,000 in the New Orleans area. Currently, they sell about 400 papers a day there.

Publisher David Manship said 10,000 free copies were being distributed this week.
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