By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
New York and Phoenix -- New Times Media and Village Voice Media, the nation's leading alternative media companies, today announced a definitive agreement to merge. The new company will be called Village Voice Media and will publish free weekly newspapers and Web sites in seventeen of the nation's largest markets.
New Times chief executive officer Jim Larkin will be CEO of the new company, and New Times executive editor Michael Lacey will be executive editor of the combined operation. Village Voice CEO David Schneiderman will be president of Village Voice Digital.
"Together, New Times and Village Voice Media create a truly national media company with highly desirable demographics, geographic diversity and a unique print and Internet platform that is poised for tremendous growth," said Larkin. "Alternative publications today, particularly those owned by New Times and the Village Voice, have become the definitive voices for ideas and information for young, progressive readers."
"This merger combines two recognized leaders in alternative media with strong reputations for editorial quality, award-winning publications, strong brand equity and a deep community presence," said Schneiderman. "The Village Voice and New Times were pioneers in establishing a voice for alternative media, as we were both born from a desire to create a venue for high-spirited, innovative public debate, and we believe this merger makes perfect sense for both companies."
Village Voice Media will have a combined weekly audited circulation of 1.8 million papers and 4.3 million readers weekly when the merger is completed. Village Voice papers will join New Times' national advertising sales agency Ruxton Media Group. Ruxton will represent 35 weekly alternative publications from coast to coast with audited circulations of 3.1 million weekly.
The merger also will bring VVM online classifieds into New Times' backpage.com, which combines the popularity of free classified online bulletin boards with new revenue opportunities for affiliated papers. The addition of the six Voice papers means backpage.com will be licensed to 37 newspapers in major American markets.
New Times' and Village Voice's current portfolio of newspapers and online assets, which include many of the nation's most respected youth-oriented publications, are cultural touchstones in their respective communities. They challenge mainstream sensibilities and provide active readers with in-depth local news coverage, irreverent humor, spirited criticism, magazine-style feature writing and the most comprehensive local music, dining, arts and events listings.
Village Voice Media will have papers and Web sites in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, Orange County, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Kansas City, Nashville, the East Bay including Oakland and Berkeley, and the Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach area.
The Village Voice, which now owns five papers in addition to its New York City flagship, was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and famed novelist Norman Mailer and quickly established a reputation for no-holds-barred reporting and criticism. The New York paper has received three Pulitzer Prizes, as well as Front Page Awards and Deadline Club Awards, and its daily-updated Web site has twice been recognized as one of the nation's premier online sites, receiving the National Press Foundation's Online Journalism Award and the Editor and Publisher Eppy Award for best U.S. weekly newspaper online.
New Times, which has grown to become the nation's largest publisher of alternative weeklies with eleven newspapers, was founded in 1970 by Lacey and others at Arizona State University. From the beginning, New Times emphasized strong writing and solid reporting of local issues along with cutting-edge cultural coverage, and its papers have routinely bested the nation's leading dailies in national and regional writing contests, winning awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the George Polk Awards, and many others. In particular, the chain has posted multiple winners and national finalists in the Livingston Awards, the nation's top contest recognizing journalistic excellence from younger writers.
New Times' dynamic growth in the decades since its founding and its refusal to hew to political party lines in its news coverage has always drawn fire from some critics within the alternative weekly industry. But others have defended the company's well-established track record of investigative reporting. "I think they're committed to uncovering wrongdoing," Jane Levine, former publisher of the Chicago Reader, told the Boston Phoenix last month. "It is generally accepted that they don't have a political position. But I think it's pretty clear that they're bulldogs about uncovering corporate or governmental malfeasance."
Pending federal regulatory approval, the New Times/Voice merger is expected to be completed by early 2006.