NOLA Stations Prep for New 'Times'

Cleaning up from Isaac, New Orleans likely will not have a daily newspaper the next time a hurricane hits

Hurricane Isaac's arrival in Louisiana last week was a reminder of how significant a role the Times-Picayune plays in the market. But the paper’s stature will change when it decreases its print schedule in the coming weeks, and TV stations in DMA No. 52 are proactive about connecting with a new batch of news consumers, as well as advertisers.

WVUE’s promo doesn’t call out the paper by name, but the imagery clearly borrows from the print world. “The global economy depends on local consumers. This fall, the way to reach those consumers is changing,” booms the baritone. “Fox 8 delivers your advertising message to your customers seven days a week, rain or shine, morning, noon or night.”

The promo debuted not long after the Times-Picayune announced it will print just three days a week beginning this fall. “The message is, we publish 24/7,” says Joe Cook, WVUE president and general manager. “We still believe television, if crafted properly, is a great way to get your message out.”

This historic shift in the media landscape is already in the works. David Hammer, Brendan McCarthy and Mike Perlstein, who joined WWL’s investigative team from the Times-Picayune in recent weeks, contributed to the station’s Isaac coverage. “We’re increasing our investigative staff and enterprise reporting,” says Tod Smith, WWL president/GM. “With the opportunity to work with so much talent and ability, we looked to bring them on board.”

Louisiana Media Co.’s WVUE gets on-air commentary from former Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, who it snagged a few years back during staff reductions at the paper. The station recently inked a deal with the paper to share sports reportage. (That was in the works prior to the paper’s printing cutback announcement, Cook says.)

Investigative reporters are busy folks in New Orleans, where corruption is almost as emblematic of the town as beads and beignets. While some are concerned that a lessened Times-Picayune will hinder the beleaguered city, station chiefs don’t envision a hit to the news coverage. The stations’ hurricane reporting last week was tenacious, and their digital platforms were at times vital amidst widespread power outages. “All of the broadcasters are doing more and more news, and we have mobile and apps,” Smith said before the storm. “There won’t be a void in the marketplace.”

Time will tell if the stations gain revenue. Local media buyers say the windfall will be modest. “It will probably go more to digital and to local radio,” says Denise Roberts, partner and regional broadcast manager at GroupM. “That seems to be where it goes from newspapers.”

Among the digital outlets that stand to see a revenue influx is the Times-Picayune’s own NOLA.com. Residents have had a special bond with the site since Hurricane Katrina, when it was a primary news source. “I think, from a revenue standpoint, it will shift to NOLA.com,” says Joann Habisreitinger, media director at New Orleans agency Zehnder. “The whole state reads NOLA.com.”

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