Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicago Reader for sale

Crain's Chicago Business reported that the owner of the weekly Chicago Reader has put the alternative newspaper on the sales block, hiring a Dallas firm to help shop the paper.

Citing sources familiar with solicitations for a sale, Crain's said that the firm handling the talks, Bulkey Capital L.P., has talked with at least two Chicago-area parties, but no deal seemed imminent. The Chicago Sun-Times is one of the potential buyers that was approached, they said.

“So much of the weekly advertising base—the cash cow for so long—were classified ads,” said Charles Whitaker, a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “Once that dried up there was just no place else for them to turn. They're struggling to figure out how to replace that revenue.”

Rising competition from Time Out Chicago also has hurt the Reader, Whitaker said. Before that weekly magazine appeared on the market in 2005, the Reader's subscriber and advertising base was distinct from many other outlets in Chicago because it had almost exclusive appeal to the target audience of young adults. Now, however, Time Out and others also market to that demographic.

Phoenix-based Village Voice Media Holdings LLC, which owns news weeklies across the country including the Village Voice in New York and Phoenix New Times, also might be interested in buying the Reader, industry observers speculated, but no talks with that group has been confirmed.

The Sun-Times was taken over earlier this year by Wrapports LLC, led by Chicago investor Michael Ferro.