Louisiana business publications find opportunity after Katrina

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More than a year after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the disaster continues to have a major effect on the two major regional business journals in Louisiana: New Orleans CityBusiness and Baton Rouge Business Report.

New Orleans CityBusiness in October launched The Journal (10,000 circ.) to provide weekly information about the recovery process, parish government, education and law enforcement in Jefferson Parish. The edit-to-ad ratio is 65/35, but the ad base is growing, said Mark Singletary, publisher of New Orleans CityBusiness and president of the New Orleans Publishing Group.

"Katrina gave me an opportunity to fill a gap that I thought had been around for years," he said.

The launch was pulled off during an extremely stressful period for Singletary and his staff, some of whom lost everything in the crush of Katrina, he said. For three weeks following the disaster, Singletary operated from Baltimore while his editor worked from Memphis. Together, they dispatched the magazine's reporters to New Orleans to cover the devastation and subsequent relief efforts.

New Orleans CityBusiness, which was mailed from Baltimore under a special exceptional dispatch granted by the U.S. Postal Service, did not miss a single print issue. Initially, about 500 subscribers received the magazine, and mailings have gradually gotten back to 75% of the pre-Katrina circulation of 13,000.

Advertising through the first half of 2006 fell 20% compared with the same period last year.

"The market has changed so drastically," Singletary said, referring to the decrease in the city of New Orleans' population to 200,000 from 500,000 before Katrina.

Because print runs are smaller, Singletary has ramped up the publication's Web site. In the immediate wake of Katrina, the publication distributed up to four e-mail blasts daily. More recently, the Web site has been blasting two daily e-mail alerts.

Baton Rouge Business Report also enhanced its online operations as a result of Katrina, launching in March. The Web site-along with a one-issue print publication that was distributed to 80,000 people statewide-educates people about the GO Zone Act of 2005, which provided tax incentives for investors pumping money into the areas hit by Katrina, said Rolfe McCollister, publisher-CEO of Baton Rouge Business Report.

McCollister said the magazine got a surge in advertising after 250,000 people-and about 170 businesses-poured into Baton Rouge because of the dislocation caused by Katrina. (About 75,000 people have permanently settled into the area as a result of Katrina.) Ad revenue through the first half of 2006 rose 12% compared with the same period in 2005, while circulation grew about 4% to 9,600. M

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