This left a much wider gap in pricing between the daily behemoth and the Observer , which was now the second-largest print publication in town. As in Miami four years earlier when the number 2 daily, The Miami News , was shuttered, sales opportunities were greatly increased by this pricing disparity. Lacey was busy on the editorial side as well.
He hired Peter Elkind as the Observer ' s first editor, a respected journalist who became known for co-authoring the bestseller on the Enron scandal: The Smartest Guys in the Room: In the Houston Post , the smaller of the two daily papers in Houston, was closed, with its assets being sold to the larger Hearst-owned paper, the Houston Chronicle. The Reader had formed Ruxton in the early s to sell national advertising for a small number of the largest alternative newsweeklies.
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These included Phoenix New Times and Westword. Following the purchase of Ruxton, NTI set out to rapidly expand the national advertising footprint of its member papers. It also aggressively pursued other alternative papers to package this market for national advertisers who coveted the desirable demographic the alternatives attracted. By Ruxton represented 52 major alternative publications.
The Guardian ' s main market area was the city of San Francisco but it also circulated in other areas around the Bay including Oakland, Emeryville and Marin County. The two daily papers, the morning San Francisco Chronicle and the evening San Francisco Examiner ,  were both operated under a Joint Operating Agreement as authorized by the Congressionally enacted Newspaper Preservation Act of Shafer repositioned the Weekly editorially, differentiating it from the crowded alternative weekly field by emphasizing investigative reporting that, unlike The Guardian , didn't hew to a predictable leftist line.
Shafer later went on to become one of the nation's preeminent media critics, penning columns for Slate. He is currently Politico's senior media writer. Papers began to fail and often were sold. In the case of the Weekly and the Guardian , litigation over who was at fault for the losses ensued.
As in San Francisco, there was much competition, with two competing daily papers and multiple alternative newsweeklies including the market-dominant LA Weekly. The company felt that the counties of Broward and Palm Beach, despite being directly adjacent to Miami-Dade County, were demographically and culturally different and could support a different alt-weekly with different content and advertisers. NTBPB became profitable and remained so through most of the first decade of the s. In , NTI ventured into the Midwest. In the summer, Cleveland Scene was acquired from its founder Richard Kabat.
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NTI expanded coverage into areas that matched the journalistic model of its other publications: New staff was hired, including editor Pete Kotz, whose approach fit the brawling, working-class ethos of the town. But Cleveland, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, had competitive forces in alternative publishing already in place, and Scene struggled to make money. This resulted in the transaction that also involved New Times Los Angeles. Louis from Ray Hartmann editor and publisher and his partner Mark Vittert.
The RFT had grown into one of the largest alternative weeklies in the U.
That success continued under NTI's ownership. As in Cleveland, the company pumped money into the publication and substantially increased the size of the editorial staff. Hartmann and Vittert are still active today as co-owners of St. Hartmann is also a television personality on the locally produced PBS show Donnybrook.
Founded in by former record store owner Hal Brody, the paper, like Cleveland Scene , began life as a music publication. Over time, Brody expanded its coverage to news, food and arts, and it achieved a dominant position as Kansas City's premier alternative newsweekly. At the time of its purchase, circulation was , and the paper operated at a profit.
Worth area by purchasing the Fort Worth Weekly. Longtime NTI executive Lee Newquist was named publisher of the paper, which had a circulation of 40, Within a year, Newquist struck a deal with Larkin to purchase the paper, a sale that was consummated in mid Newquist remains owner and publisher of the paper today. At the time of the purchase the paper had a circulation of 64, The late s saw a huge growth spurt for the NTI publications as it did for most of the alternative newsweeklies in the country and print media in general.
The end of the recession of the early s, coupled with the dawning of the Internet era in the middle of the decade, initially brought a bountiful harvest of new revenues.
Dotcom advertisers, flush with venture capital money, were spending liberally in the media. A portion of that went to alternative weeklies including the growing NTI chain. Ads ran in print and online as newspapers, including all the NTI publications, began launching websites and selling advertising on the sites.
NTI launched its first website in and within a year had sites up for all of its publications. The bubble, however, burst in The year would prove to be the apex for NTI's revenue growth. What followed over the next decade was a slow, bumpy decline. Market forces and the increasing power of the Internet slowly began to erode the strength of the alternative press.
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There were brief signs of life. In Alta Communications of Boston purchased a minority stake in NTI, giving the company a much larger war chest to expand its operations. Despite the best efforts, there were increasing signs that the economic tides had turned. The erosion of market conditions shifted NTI's focus and resources to achieving operational efficiencies.
Once known for its generous spending on editorial, NTI was forced to economize. Expense cuts were made to meet the changing business environment. Publications that were not profitable were carefully scrutinized and a number were sold or shuttered between and This resulted in the weaker, money-losing paper in each of the two markets being closed by their new owners, a reflection of the two companies' belief that the L.
After critics cried foul, the U. Department of Justice launched an antitrust investigation. The investigation resulted in a settlement that required the companies to sell off the assets and titles of the Free Times and NTLA to new potential competitors. LA Weekly and Cleveland Scene continue to publish today. And companies that don't pay attention to the bottom line cannot afford to hire good writers and publish the news.
By the middle of the decade, the two chains had clearly established themselves as the big dogs in the alt-weekly world. It seemed inevitable that one or the other would need to assert its dominance, and on October 24, , NTI announced a deal to acquire VVM, creating a chain of 17 weeklies with a combined circulation of 1. In a provocative interview with New York magazine published shortly after the deal was announced, Lacey made it clear he expected the Voice to take on New Times' fighting spirit.
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But at least I'm a prick you can understand. I don't sneak up on you. You can see me coming from a long way away. Like the Russian winter. What began as a tiny weekly paper in Phoenix was now the largest publishing group in the alternative newspaper publishing category. Just prior to the VVM deal, Larkin installed a new president and chief operating officer to lead the day-to-day business dealings of what was about to become a much larger company.
Scott Tobias began his career with New Times in as a sales representative at Westword. He rose to become advertising director there and in was named publisher of the company's latest acquisition, The Pitch in Kansas City.
He returned to Denver in to become group publisher overseeing a number of the NTI publications. Tobias' efforts forestalled the steep declines in revenue experienced in the alternative publishing world for a number of years. Ultimately, though, the Great Recession and the Internet took their toll. By the early s the Internet, particularly the website Craigslist , was destroying the classified advertising business in newspapers nationwide.
Classified advertising in daily newspapers as well as weekly alternatives, suburban papers and community papers was all moving to the free advertising model of Craigslist and other smaller websites. In response to this phenomenon, NTI launched a free classified website called backpage. It soon became the second largest online classified site in the U. The site included all the categories found in newspaper classified sections, including those that were unique to, and part of, the First Amendment-driven traditions of most alternative weeklies.
These included personals including adult oriented personal ads , adult services, musicians and " New Age " services. On September 4, , in response to pressure from a variety of governmental agencies and NGO's, Craigslist removed the adult services category from its U. In taking this position, VVM felt that the First Amendment rights implications, coupled with the protections given to interactive computer services in section of the Communications Decency Act of , were paramount.
Over the next five years, Backpage won every legal challenge to its right to continue the adult services category on the Backpage site.