What Super Bowl? The New Orleans Times-Picayune and knowing your audience

While the rest of the football universe spent Monday morning either celebrating New England’s sixth Super Bowl win or complaining about it, the folks in New Orleans woke up to a newspaper front that captured the city’s mood perfectly:


If you aren’t a football fan, or aren’t from the NoLa area, you probably didn’t hear about the NFC championship game that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl and sent the New Orleans Saints home for the year. During the Saints final drive in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 20-20, the referees blew a pass-interference call that would have essentially won the gain for New Orleans. However, instead of getting a first down and a chance to run out the clock before a game-winning field goal, the Saints had a 4th-and-10 situation, so they kicked a field goal.

The Rams tied the game in regulation and went on to win 26-23 in overtime.

Still steaming two weeks later, the staff of the paper decided not to cover The Big Game and instead protest its existence with this cover. How good of an idea this was seemed to be directly related to your connection to the area.

A journalism education Facebook group I’m on posted this image and asked if this was a colossal waste of space, and the majority of folks initially thought it was:

This is almost an ethics issue. My reaction to this front is that it cheapens the front page. Think of all of the important content that could have been there.
NOLA has stewed over this for two weeks.


Blowing up the front may have jumped the shark.


Yeah, this was petty and shouldn’t have been done. Write an editorial about it. Sports really isn’t that important, and I’m a sports fan.


What a waste of space and opportunity! I’m sorry if you are a football fan–I’m not–but N.O. needs to get over it! … there is so much more important news than the silly Super Bowl, blown call or not. Jeepers.

My two cents on the matter was that I probably wouldn’t have done this because I’m usually a wuss when it comes to going way out on a limb, but that I did like it for two reasons:

  1. Audience centricity: These folks know their readership, particularly in the print-distribution area, pretty well, so if they have the vibe that this is what people are thinking and feeling, they probably hit a home run with their audience. Meeting your audience where they are and touching on what they think is important tends to work well, and a local paper, which the TP is, should know what matters most to the readers.
  2. Fail big: Even if this was a disaster-bacle and the readers ended up hating it, at least the paper failed big. It’s easy to try to hedge your bets against really screwing up by doing something minor, but it takes guts to go for it, which the paper did here.

To see if I was right about this, I put out a call to my friends and colleagues in the area and it turns out, the people down there loved this thing:

This is a great case of a newsroom knowing its audience. The city partied yesterday to celebrate the season and collectively mourn what coulda shoulda been. The Times-Pic covered it all on its digital platforms yesterday, so I think the front page was a great way to show the city’s sentiment, while still having coverage inside the paper. And people did not watch the big game. The numbers prove it: locally, the game got a 26.2 rating, compared to 55 last year.


It’s real, and it’s going over brilliantly.


Local reaction to Super Bowl and the blown call ranges from genuine outrage to dipshittery.

This reaction from the folks in the area reinforces the idea of audience centricity and the importance of knowing your audience. When it came down to it, the paper took a huge risk, but it ended up becoming the talk of the town and beyond. National media covered the paper’s front page live on air and on the web. The Washington Post featured all of the outrage, including the parade the fans had to grouse about the Big Game’s lack of value to them.

Even more, the paper clearly made an impact where it mattered most: Sales.

“The paper sold out at shops & paper machines,” a good friend told me.

When was the last time the paper could say that?

Leave a Reply