Proving that local online news can be a valuable business weapon against legacy media, the owner of Maine's VillageSoup.com is acquiring six weekly newspapers he has been battling competitively for more than 10 years.
Anderson's Village NetMedia Inc. -- two award-winning local community news websites and two weekly tabloid papers -- are acquiring the six other weeklies, four of them direct competitors, from Crescent Publishing Co. LLC, of Greenville, S.C., headed by William deB. (Bern) Mebane, a former Gannett Co. Inc. executive.
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In Media Giraffe Project interview, Richard Anderson predicts his business victory is a harbinger of things to come -- an indication that once-dominant local media interests must cease thinking of themselves as primarily print businesses or face effective, even overpowering, competition.
Even the seller agrees. "We have adopted the VillageSoup model for our remaining newspapers in Alabama," says Mebane. "We competed with Richard up here . . . and he realized that he was the real deal . . . this is a marriage between the traditional titles and trademarks and franchises of print with the recognition that it isn't just print any longer. It's the three-legged stool of learn, share and shop. News doesn't come down on high."
Anderson said about 26 positions will be lost in the merger and consolidation, in which three flags will be shuttered, leaving a total of five publications in five Maine locations, two existing VillageSoup web communities, and 92 employees. Anderson said the company will launch two new websites to lead and support the print publications it is acquiring.
"With the declining revenue of traditional newspapers -- both in circulation and advertising, the 10-year VillageSoup experiment is finally being recognized in the industry," Anderson said in a statement. "Our approach helps transition traditional community newsppaer companies into community host companies, and that's the future of the industry."
Liste to a 17-minute interview with Anderson by clicking on the left carat of the bar below, or downloading an audio podcast (4MB) for offline listening. A four-page news release about the transaction may be downloaded as a PDF (source: Village NetMedia Inc.)