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Georges, Benson partner up

Newspaper, sports teams in league of their own

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  The New Orleans Advocate, which formally relaunched last month after the Baton Rouge Advocate began publishing locally 11 months ago, is now the official newspaper of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, Advocate owner John Georges announced at a reception at the Superdome last week. Georges was joined by Tom Benson, owner of the Saints and Pelicans, and Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc.

  The deal does not extend to naming rights to the New Orleans Arena, though Georges said there would be plenty of Advocate signage in the city's sports complex.

  The partnership between two of New Orleans' wealthiest and most influential families drew a crowd of several hundred business leaders and politicos to a third-floor lounge in the Superdome, including most of the New Orleans City Council and Jefferson Parish President John Young, as well as Benson's wife Gayle Benson and Georges' wife Dathel Coleman Georges. Most of the Advocate's New Orleans editorial staff was on hand as well, though editor Peter Kovacs said the newspaper and sports teams' partnership would not extend to editorial content in any way, but simply be a marketing and promotional tool for both entities.

  Georges said the New Orleans paper, which began as a bureau of fewer than 12 under its previous owners, the Manship family of Baton Rouge, now has a staff of 41. (By comparison, The Times-Picayune has upwards of 150 employees, though the official number is not public.) Despite making a PR splash, local advertising has been slow to follow the Advocate's incursion into New Orleans, a fact that Georges noted tacitly when he told the crowd, "I'm asking everyone here to subscribe to the paper, but if you're in business, advertise."

  Various circulation numbers for The New Orleans Advocate have been reported in recent months. So what's the real figure? "We have about 20,000 to 25,000 total [home delivery and newsstand]," Georges said. "They started with about 21,000 [paid home delivery subscriptions in the New Orleans market] when the Manships had it; it fell to about 15,000 home delivery." Georges' goal, he said, is to use the Saints/Pelicans partnership and the new ad campaign to double that figure by year's end, bringing the paper to 30,000 paid home delivery copies.

  Asked if he saw any conflict of interest in this mutual self-promotion, Georges shook his head no. "We separate our business and our editorial, just like Gambit and all other papers do." — KEVIN ALLMAN

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