The Advocate overtakes The Times-Picayune as Louisiana's largest newspaper

The Advocate has overtaken The Times-Picayune as Louisiana’s largest newspaper, according to statistics made public Thursday.

The Advocate’s circulation has increased since being acquired in 2013 and expanded by New Orleans businessman John Georges. Meanwhile, The Times-Picayune has seen its circulation decline by about 28 percent since 2012 when news broke that it planned to reduce its home-delivery schedule.

The Advocate’s combined circulation averaged 109,358 on Sundays and 97,297 for papers during the week over the last three months of 2014, President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Shea said. Both of those numbers from the Alliance for Audited Media are slightly larger than The Times-Picayune, which once had more than double The Advocate’s circulation. The Times-Picayune publishes home-delivery editions on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The circulation on the two home-delivery weekdays averages 97,249. The Sunday circulation is 108,690.

“I wasn’t surprised because I’ve been tracking this closely. I was really pleased. I was happy for our staff. I was happy for our owner,” Shea said. “It’s a milestone; it means something in that respect. But we’re only part-way along our plan of where we want to be.”

In 2012, before news broke that The Times-Picayune was laying off 200 employees and planned to shift resources to its website, with print editions just three days a week, the paper’s weekday circulation was 134,639, according to figures from the alliance. The Advocate’s was 77,167.

The latest numbers show The Advocate has erased more than seven years of falling circulation, Shea said. The Advocate is now holding its own in the Baton Rouge area, while growing in New Orleans and Acadiana.

That indicates there’s still a market for a newspaper that publishes seven days a week, Shea said. The growing New Orleans circulation also shows that readers and advertisers like what The Advocate has done.

Micheline Maynard, director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University, said newspaper circulation overall has been dropping for at least 15 years, so the fact that any U.S. newspaper gained circulation is “very significant.”

“It also reflects more about New Orleans and Louisiana than it does newspapers in general,” Maynard said.

The Advocate moved aggressively into New Orleans, publishing seven days a week while The Times-Picayune put out a paper only three days a week.

“If you can outpublish the other guys and you really put on promotions, you can pick up circulation. This is proof of that,” Maynard said.

The circulation increase also reflects something else: People of New Orleans like to read the newspaper.

If they can get the paper, they will read it, she said.

Figures from the Newspaper Association of America show circulation revenue increased 3.7 percent nationwide in 2014, which means getting the paper to customers is actually a lucrative area. The figures include revenue from delivery and papers with online paywalls.

“So the fact that The Advocate can increase circulation is a good sign for revenue,” Maynard said.

Last year, The Times-Picayune also announced it would lay off an additional 100 workers and abandon its longtime headquarters on Howard Avenue as part of a move to consolidate its printing operations in Alabama. The outsourcing of the print operation is expected to occur in late 2015 or early 2016.

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