Tag Archives: Advance Crisis

Questions on the 1-year anniversary of the Alabama Media Group

John Archibald has now joined in sports-nerd-bingo.

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Inside the soon-to-be-abandoned newsroom
of the Alabama Media Group

Birmingham once had two daily newspapers. Today, it has none.

Owner Advance Publications turned the Birmingham News and its website al.com into two new companies, Alabama Media Group and Advance Central Services Alabama. It has followed through with similar plans in many of its other markets across the country.

One year ago today, the Birmingham News ceased daily publication after 124 years and began a thrice-weekly schedule. That same day saw similar transformations in Huntsville, Mobile and New Orleans, which has since gone back to publishing 6 days a week in two separate publications.

Circulation has dropped year to year. Site traffic has risen. Both companies have changed leadership.

And this week, Alabama Media Group announced plans to move in early 2014 to a leased location downtown; a previous report had indicated the company’s move was contingent on selling the facility, asking price $21.4 million. (No word on where sister company Advance Central Services will go.)

Before looking ahead to year two, let’s examine the key questions from the last 12 months under Alabama Media Group’s digital first strategy.

• As both companies’ leaders are replaced with those with no previous ties to Alabama, how will that affect the quality of local coverage?

• Have the journalists who replaced some of those fired in 2012 improved local coverage? Digital initiatives? Community interaction?

• How many unique visitors did al.com have each month in 2012 before Oct. 1? How many unique monthly visitors does it have in 2013?

• What was the monthly advertising revenue in 2012 and 2013 for print ads, classifieds and online?

• Which coverage areas have improved in the past year? Which coverage areas have faltered?

• Will Alabama Media Group be able to sell its current building at $21.4 million?

• Will a competing daily newspaper enter the Birmingham market, as has happened in at least two other Advance cities?

• And lastly, are we, the people of Birmingham, better off today with the Alabama Media Group than we were a year ago?

Update Oct. 2: Amount of local news on page 1 for Oct. 2 edition? 0 percent.

Birmingham News

Click on image for larger view.

Additional reading:

The Birmingham News turned 125 today. So obviously we had to have a giant cake.

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The Birmingham News turned 125 in March.

Birmingham News building demolition

Photo: m.rags (CC)

The demolition of the previous headquarters of
the Birmingham News in 2007, constructed in 1917.

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 …