ADVANCE CRISIS: The insanely obsessive guide to the Birmingham News/al.com implosion


By Wade Kwon

Birmingham has seen one of its most tumultuous years in its media landscape. The last 365 days have brought layoffs, departures, closings and a few victories among local outlets.

It was 1 year ago today that the New York Times scooped New Orleans’ venerable Times-Picayune on its own impending upheaval: layoffs, a drop to publishing three times a week and the formation of two new companies.

Before that explosive announcement, Advance’s online portal al.com joined nola.com and mlive.com in a drastic and comprehensive site redesign. Reaction by readers nationwide — as Advance switched all its sites over to the 2012 look — was overwhelmingly negative.

The following day (May 24), owner Advance Publications announced hurriedly what Times-Picayune staffers had already learned online. In addition, the New Jersey-based chain rolled out a similar Alabama-wide strategy for the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Press-Register of Mobile.

See full coverage of Advance Publications.

Before reviewing the Advance Crisis of the last 12 months, just look at the other major events on Birmingham’s media scene during the same period …

A look at the ups and downs since Advance’s restructuring of its Birmingham operations …

May 2012

May 24: Birmingham News reporters tweet the stunning morning announcements on publishing schedule and company reorganization.

At the same time, the media release appears on al.com, similar to the one on nola.com and that would appear in coming months for other Advance properties.

Naturally, layoffs were part of the deal.

I threw in an appropriate hashtag.

Birmingham News staffers (and others) weighed in via Twitter.

While New Orleans felt the ire of a large, loyal readership, Birmingham faced a more muted response. That afternoon, New Orleans residents spring into action with a Save the Picayune campaign. No such reaction in Birmingham.

May 25, 2012 newspapers

Mobile finds layoffs ‘exciting’ for its May 25, 2012, edition.
[larger version]

May 25: Print editions across the state splash the announcement across the front page.

May 30: Our special Media of Birmingham report details worries about layoffs and the new model for the Birmingham News.

May 31: Another Media of Birmingham report shows one key company, al.com, seemingly lost in the shuffle. While the newspapers would fire hundreds, al.com would fire only one employee.

Continued on page 2 …

9 responses to “ADVANCE CRISIS: The insanely obsessive guide to the Birmingham News/al.com implosion

  1. Richard Kirby

    Excellent piece, Wade. It’s been a shame to watch what was once a proud daily newspaper transform into little more than a click counter.

  2. Ironically, one of the story links you shared has a typo in its second graf:

    The city was the test for a business model similar to one used at other Advance-owned papers in New Orleans, Harrisburg, Syracuse and other cities in Alabama and Michican.

    http://www.wkyc.com/news/politics_government/article/283320/130/Part-2-Whats-life-like-with-no-daily-paper

  3. Pingback: Do everything wrong and backwards | Birmingham Blogging Academy

  4. new-jersey based, wayne? everyone knows advance is based in nyc.

  5. Pingback: Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Now with Greece | eats shoots 'n leaves

  6. Pingback: Questions on the 1-year anniversary of the Alabama Media Group | Media of Birmingham

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s