Georges: The Advocate still BR’s newspaper

Since he took over as owner of The Advocate four months ago, John Georges has led an aggressive push to improve the newspaper’s presence in New Orleans and announced plans to substantially beef up coverage in Acadiana in 2014.

But Georges told a standing-room only crowd at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club meeting Wednesday that The Advocate at its core is a Capital Region product.

“I’m not forgetting this is a Baton Rouge newspaper; the majority of our readers are from Baton Rouge,” he said. “To distinguish that, we’ve created a New Orleans Advocate so there’s no confusion from anyone.”

The Advocate is making its mark in both markets in other ways, with Georges announcing it has become the official newspaper of LSU Tiger athletics, the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Baton Rouge readers will benefit from The Advocate expanding into other markets, just like the city has benefited from businesses that have expanded into other markets, such as Raising Cane’s, Turner Industries and Lamar Advertising.

“My commitment to you is, if you support The Advocate, we will continually pour those resources into the newspaper and you will have more news,” Georges said.

“And now, you’ll have to read a little bit more about the rest of the state.”

The Manship family, which had owned the Baton Rouge newspaper properties since 1909, sold The Advocate to Georges on April 30.

Georges said he’s getting good reviews and reports about his ownership of The Advocate, and the newspaper’s recent redesign has been favorably received.

Georges said longtime newspaper employees have told him the most recent “freshening up” generated fewer reader complaints than previous redesigns.

“There’s a lot of optimism,” he said. “There’s a bright future ahead for The Advocate.”

The publisher’s plan is to increase circulation in New Orleans.

The Advocate launched a daily edition in October to fill the void that was created when The Times-Picayune stopped printing and delivering a daily newspaper.

The Advocate has hired 41 writers, photographers and editors to work in New Orleans.

“We appreciated what the Manships did in a very short period of time,” Georges said. “With the expansion here in writers, our product is good. We expected to be better than the Picayune by Christmas, and I think it’s already there.”

The next goal is to improve circulation in New Orleans. A campaign will be launched in the New Orleans market to increase subscribers and advertisers.

“We have had advertisers, but we expect a lot more,” Georges said.