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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

David Carr on The Times-Picayune changeover

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 3:11 PM


For this week’s cover story, “Paper Cuts,” I spoke to many people about The Times-Picayune’s upcoming transition to thrice-weekly publishing and a concentration on online news gathering.

One of the people to whom I spoke was David Carr, who writes about media, business and culture for The New York Times — and who originally broke the story about the New Orleans paper’s transition. Carr is a fun interview — he refers to newspapering as “putting the white paper out to get the green paper back” — and much of what he said didn’t make the final article. So here’s some extra Carr on the Picayune situation.

• On the prospect of The Times-Picayune going completely online and entirely paperless in a few years:

“You’re [New Orleans] not really ringed by a great retail gold mine that would make for a great Sunday product. I don’t think that Newhouse has committed to print. The whole industry is going to a paperless business. … I would not be surprised to see them eliminate the print product.”

• On becoming the primary mode of Advance's news distribution:

“If you look at their web product broadly — that turns out to be a significant error. When it comes to [newspaper/website] integration, which they’re putting on a forced march, they have a very long way to go, with a staff and a technology that is probably not on par with a lot of American newspapers in digital terms. They can talk all they want about the traffic on the New Orleans site. What does it mean if you can’t search what you have?”

• On whether the protests in New Orleans caused Advance Publications to rethink its publishing plans:

“No. I think it [the protest] was expected and the last time I spoke to Steven Newhouse he didn’t seem confused or wavering at that.”

• On the model of spurring lots of comments on online stories, resulting in more clicks from commenters:

“That’s sort of the Tom Sawyer approach — you show people how to paint a fence, then you hand them the paintbrush. Whether you can leverage enough ads against that to make it go, I’m not sure. The problem with the wisdom of the crowds is that they’re not always that wise, and the signal-to-noise ratio is not that great.”

• On the newspaper chops of new publisher Ricky Mathews:

“You have a guy who at first was sort of slinkin’ around, and then wouldn’t come in the shop — and then when he did, people were not that impressed. In terms of a message to your staff — you want to send Batman or somebody. He hasn’t really done or said anything [to inspire confidence].”

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