Two Weeklies Close
Less Independent: The rumors of major cutbacks at the Independent Publishing Group in Windham turned out to be true.
On April 3, the company shut down two of its three weekly papers. The Tri Town Independent, which served Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls, ceased publication, and the Gray-New Gloucester Independent was, according to a reliable source, “merged” into the Windham Independent. It’s not clear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of those moves.
Less free access: The Ellsworth American is trying to make some money off its Web site.
Until this past week, the American routinely posted almost all its content on the site for free. But as of April 3, that changed. Visitors to the site were offered a choice. They could sample a few of the top stories, a business directory and classified ads without paying.
Or they could get the entire paper online for about half the cost of a mail subscription.
“We were probably giving away more material than we should have been,” said editor Hugh Bowden. “You can’t give away online what you charge for in print and expect the print subscriptions to hold up.”
Bowden said reaction to the change has been “mixed,” and he’s not sure how long it will take to determine whether this approach is a success. He said the idea of limited free access online is being tried by several small weeklies around the country, but no one is sure if it can reverse the revenue – and circulation – declines that have plagued newspapers of all sizes.
Less money: There’s little new to report on the possible sale of the Blethen Maine Newspapers (the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel) to a group headed by Pennsylvania publisher Richard Connor. In fact, the amount of chatter about the deal has dried up in recent days, indicating something might happen soon. Or not.
Into this vacuum comes Portland Phoenix editor Jeff Inglis with a thoughtful piece on what could be happening behind the scenes.
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Phoenix.)
Among Inglis’ educated guesses: The delay in closing the sale could be caused by Connor holding up the cash-strapped Blethens for a lower price, perhaps a fraction of the $25-$30 million figure that’s been tossed around before.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.