Robert Ambrogi ponders the news that GateHouse Media, best known locally for its ownership of local weekly newspapers (with a few dailies in the mix) has bought the company that owns Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
It will be interesting, but one has to realize that Mass Lawyers Weekly is a relatively expensive publication, and that (1) the readers of it are typically not paying for it out of pocket (it's a business expense), and (2) most consider it necessary. Accordingly, I think that demand is probably pretty inelastic (and MLW has been very strong on keeping things behind pay walls), so I think this might be a reason why it might have been an attractive asset.
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Would love to see you editorialize on this down here in the comments. Surely you must be acquainted with dozens of journalists who have been brought into the Gatehouse fold in the last two years, and who might have insight on what they think the next step is for this company. It eludes me to figure how their drunken buying spree is supposed to prevent another bankruptcy. Once they cut 25% across the board at every daily, weekly and trade pub in the country and replace all their websites with something slower and shittier, Gatehouse is really going to have a moneymaking juggernaut on their hands? As if more market penetration will enable them to charge Super Bowl prices for national ad buyers? Doesn't seem plausible, but then I don't know what would.
Look at the paper in Las Vegas, just bought by some mystery group that's refusing to say who the real owners are (back in my days at a daily that is now part of the GateHouse juggernaut, we tended to find out major changes in management by reading about them in the Globe).
In any case, looks like they have two strategies to maintain their executives' high salaries, at least on the editorial side: Cut costs at existing papers to the bone by laying off as many people as you can while still filling the news hole (with greater amounts of "regional" content rather than the town-specific stuff your papers used to be known for), then cut them even more by laying off the layout and copy desk people at a couple of central locations (several hundred miles away in the case of the Mass. papers). The other is to buy niche cash-cow publications, such as these lawyers' weeklies.
This can work because they are, in many towns, kind of a media monopoly. Sure, if you want to reach large numbers of people, there's the Globe or TV stations. But if you just want to reach people in, oh, Natick or Sudbury? Patch could have proven competition, but, well, look at what happened to them.
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