By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The 175-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper will reduce the number of days it publishes a print edition to three a week, making the Louisiana city the largest in the United States without a daily newspaper.
Advance Publications, which owns the Times-Picayune, said on Thursday it made the change because of the upheaval in the newspaper industry and the necessity to focus on its digital publications.
The company said three of its newspapers in Alabama - the Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register and Birmingham News - would also cut back their print editions to three days a week.
Many newspapers have suffered substantial declines in circulation as readers rely on the Internet for information.
Times-Picayune Publisher Ashton Phelps said in a memo to staff that the changes "will necessitate a reduction" in the workforce but he did not say how many jobs would be lost.
A statement posted on the newspaper's website said the Times-Picayune, the city's only daily newspaper, would offer "enhanced printed newspapers" on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday only.
The company will "significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the announcement said. The changes will take effect in the fall.
Steve Myers, a managing editor at the Poynter Institute, which studies the media, said the decision to cut back on print editions would make New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper.
He said the paper is the first of its size in the country to cut back the print editions so drastically.
The Times-Picayune has won numerous awards since its founding in 1837, including a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Privately held Advance Publications said the three Alabama newspapers will focus on improving a shared Alabama website, al.com.
"They will retain a lot of the advertising dollars because what they've done is keep the most profitable days and cut the ones that don't make any money," Myers said.
The key question for readers is whether there will be a reduction in news gathering, he said. "The important thing to look at is how many fewer reporters will they have," Myers said.
In 2009, Advance Publications went to a twice-weekly print edition for The Ann Arbor News in Michigan, and it expanded that to other newspapers in the state last year, Myers said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bassing; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)