Why Willamette Week bought Independent Weekly

Willamette Week announced on Thursday that it was buying Durham, N.C.-based Independent Weekly. The Portland alt’s story on the deal pointed out that “the purchase comes at a time when newspapers –including alternative weeklies — continue to suffer a long-term decline in advertising revenue and print circulation.”

I asked Willamette Week editor and co-owner Mark Zusman if he’d tell Romenesko readers more about the deal. Here’s what he said:

Why Independent Weekly?
There are a few alt-weeklies that interest us and the Indy has always been high on the list. It’s situated in a great market, filled with readers who care about local news. Moreover, the paper — under the leadership of Steve Schewel — has the kind of DNA that we are attracted to — a longstanding committment to enterprise journalism and a desire to make the significant interesting. We hope to continue that arc.

Will he become the Warren Buffett of alt-weeklies and buy more papers?
We have no specific plans to acquire any other weeklies, but [WW publisher] Richard [Meeker] and I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for what we do,

Mark Zusman

neither of us play golf, and we both agree strongly with whoever it was who said that socially, journalists fit somewhere between a whore and bartender but spiritually, he (or she) stands with Galileo. And I can’t think of another time in recent history that was more in need of Galileos.

As to the state of alt-weeklies: like daily newspapers, there is both a range of quality and a range of financial stability. All of us are engaged in a pivot, where we are trying to change the business model, diversify the revenue base, hang on and grow readership and stay true to our ideals. It’s not easy, but its doable and perhaps more so for alt-weeklies that are dedicated to local, local, local.

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