When New Media Investment Group announced its latest deals, the public attention focused on its sale of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s not hard to see why, given the strangeness involving casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the effort to hide his involvement in the paper’s purchase.
But there was another deal, one with bigger ramifications for the Boston area. New Media — known around here as GateHouse Media, a New Media subsidiary and predecessor — expanded its fast-growing empire by agreeing to buy the Dolan business and legal publications for an undisclosed amount. The national group includes the Boston-based Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.
This is a huge prize for Kirk Davis, the Massachusetts-based COO of New Media and CEO of GateHouse, because it makes his company one of the largest publishers of business journals in the country overnight. Davis says this expansion into business-to-business media represents an important effort to diversify New Media beyond the community publishing it’s known for — local papers such as the Telegram & Gazette, The Patriot Ledger, and the MetroWest Daily News, to name just a few.
Davis sees Dolan’s readers and advertisers as a natural audience for Propel Marketing, New Media’s Quincy-based digital services business, and for his newly created events business, called GateHouse Live.
Davis says his company will look to add more B2B media brands to its portfolio through future acquisitions. “The key is to expand the current properties that come with the deal, and [then] add to the group,” Davis says in an email.
Yes, the New Media/GateHouse expansion model often involves cost-cutting. “Certainly there are some synergies that we can capitalize on, but our primary focus will be on growth,” Davis says, referring in part to plans to improve Dolan’s online presence. “They don’t have a digital suite of services today.”
Here in Boston, Publisher Susan Bocamazo says she doesn’t expect any staffing changes to the 17-person team running Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. She says there could be opportunities for her publications to share stories with the local GateHouse papers.
Local media consultant and lawyer Bob Ambrogi says he was surprised to learn that New Media/GateHouse was the Dolan publications’ buyer. This is essentially a new market for the company, but Ambrogi says he sees parallels between legal publishing and community publishing. (“It’s just a different [kind of] community.”) Ambrogi, also executive director for the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, says the deal could end up being a positive one for Mass. Lawyers Weekly.
“It could help expand their footprint a little bit,” says Ambrogi, who was the publication’s editor -in-chief in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “If ... efficiencies can be used to free up reporting resources and perhaps modernize the paper’s approach to digital publishing and social media, then it can be beneficial.”