- Posted by Martin McDonald
- On January 18, 2017
January 18, 2017 — Voice Media Group announced today that as part of the ongoing diversification of its portfolio it is putting the storied LA Weekly up for sale.
VMG’s announcement presents a special opportunity for a buyer with an appreciation for the Weekly’s long history as a progressive icon in America’s second-largest market.
Founded in 1978 by an initial investment group that included actor Michael Douglas, LA Weekly quickly developed into a must-read for anyone interested in taking the cultural pulse of Los Angeles. Its hard-hitting investigative stories, spirited criticism, and provocative film, arts and music coverage have made it part of the fabric of L.A., and it is the nation’s most widely read alt-weekly, with well over 3 million active users visiting laweekly.com each month.
The Weekly is profitable – and it’s also an important journalistic force in Southern California. In 2008 Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek broke the story of the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer, a true-crime blockbuster that was later optioned into a Lifetime TV movie. Its writers have dominated the L.A. Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award, winning three times in the last six years. Nationally, the Weekly has won more awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia than any other publication in the country. And in 2007 it became the first newspaper to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for restaurant criticism.
Under VMG’s management, the Weekly has also engaged readers with some of the city’s most popular cultural events. In June, its “Tacolandia” food event draws thousands of guests, who sample signature tacos from more than 100 of the world’s best taquerias at El Pueblo de Los Angeles in downtown Los Angeles. And in March, “The Essentials” brings L.A.’s top restaurants and their most popular dishes together under one roof at California Market Center.
VMG’s decision to shop the Weekly is part of a strategic corporate realignment that began when a new ownership group took the reins four years ago. Under that plan, the company has aggressively built a digital agency business that has exponentially expanded the services available to local customers. Double-digit growth since its inception has allowed V Digital Services to open regional offices in twelve major U.S. cities along with a number of international markets.
While the digital business has grown, VMG has made targeted reductions in its print newspaper holdings.
In January 2013, VMG sold the SF Weekly to the San Francisco Newspaper Company and the Seattle Weekly to Sound Publishing.
In January 2015, VMG announced that it had hired Santa Fe-based newspaper merger and acquisition firm Dirks, Van Essen & Murray to explore new strategies for its remaining publishing assets, including the sale or purchase of alternative publications and other digital businesses.
Since that time, VMG has sold four more print newspapers: the Riverfront Times of St. Louis, City Pages of Minneapolis, OC Weekly in Orange County, and the legendary Village Voice in New York City.
The Riverfront Times was sold to Euclid Media Group of Cleveland, and City Pages is now owned by the Star Tribune Media Company, publisher of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. OC Weekly was purchased by Irvine-based publisher Duncan McIntosh, while the Voice was bought by Peter D. Barbey, whose Reading, Pennsylvania-based family has published newspapers for eight successive generations. Barbey has since announced plans to expand the Voice’s presence, both in print and online.
“Just as motivated buyers stepped forward in other cities, we expect to see a great level of interest in the Weekly,” said Voice Media Group chief executive officer Scott Tobias.
VMG’s newspaper sales dovetail with the company’s transformation into a diversified digital enterprise with expertise in the mobile/digital realm, Tobias noted.
The new owners in Orange County, Minneapolis and St. Louis have continued to offer their advertisers web and digital support through V Digital Services. VMG also continues to sell national advertising for those publications, along with 53 other partner sites and publications with weekly print distribution of 3 million and 95 million page views per month.
Although digital and web services are not a prerequisite for an L.A. sale, they are very much an option for a local buyer, Tobias said.
“We see this as a fantastic opportunity to offer our digital agency expertise to a new owner who’s interested in building on the Weekly’s history of journalistic excellence,” he added.
The full-service digital advertising team at V Digital Services now includes more than 55 specialists, all based in the United States and all devoted to helping businesses both large and small succeed in the mobile-digital space.
With certified experts trained in everything from organic SEO and programmatic advertising to web development, pay-per-click advertising and social media management, VDS excels at making cutting-edge digital marketing strategies affordable for small and large local clients across a range of industries.
Following a sale in L.A., Voice Media Group will continue to own and operate alternative weekly newspapers and websites across the country, including Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Denver Westword, the Dallas Observer and the Houston Press.
All inquiries should be made directly to Sara April at Dirks, Van Essen & Murray at 505-820-2700 or [email protected]