Alternative Weeklies have seen better days, but the two largest companies, New Times Media and Village Voice Media, will try to rescue what’s left and combine forces in a move that will give them entry into 16 key markets, and 25 percent of the country’s 7.6 million alternative weekly readers. A key rationale behind the merger is the chance to supercharge Backpage.com, the Craigs List-like, free classifieds service from New Times.
Village Voice Media brings six markets to the table, including New York, Los Angeles, Orange County, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Nashville. New Times publishes in 11 markets, including Phoenix, Cleveland, Houston, San Francisco, Miami and Dallas.
Tellingly, online’s a key driver of the deal. Voice CEO David Schneiderman is slated to take charge of the company’s online operations, with a focus on backpage.com, New Times’ Craig’s list-like free classifieds service. The service may be rebranded as “The Village Voice” or some aspect of the title.
To a kultur meister, The Village Voice no longer “matters.” And The Voice, and similar alternative papers around the country, can hardly promise a lock on its traditional “alternative” readers, including college, college grad, gay and minority readers. Still, the alternative weeklies retain large readerships in key markets. Someone is surely picking up the 250,000 copies a week that The Voice puts out.