Is the Los Angeles News Group about to go on the market as part of its parent company’s sale?

The question follows last week’s report by Ken Doctor, an analyst in the Bay Area who follows the news industry.

The report, published on the Neiman Journalism Lab’s website, said that the parent company, Digital First Media of New York, is cutting costs and a sale is likely as a result.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., came to that same conclusion after speaking with industry sources.

Doctor told the Business Journal that the majority shareholder of Digital First, New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital, will begin a process to sell the company this year. Doctor expects the company will be broken up by geography, with the L.A. papers going up for sale as a unit.

“I think what will happen is segmentation by geography, with four, five or six groups, and the Lang papers as one of them,” he told the Business Journal.

He said Digital First made its intent to sell clear last week with a decision to cut its costly digitally focused news-gathering experiment in New York. The venture, Project Thunderdome, produced national news stories for use in Digital First’s 75 local papers, including Lang’s, and related websites. The closure was part of a plan to cut at least $100 million of costs to improve operating profits to make the company look better to a buyer.

Along with the L.A. papers, which include the Los Angeles Daily News and Long Beach Press-Telegram, Digital First has papers in Denver, the Bay Area and other parts of the country.

A sale of the entire group might be preferable for the owners, but could be difficult, as it was for Tribune Co., the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. Tribune was looking for a buyer to take over all of its papers, including the Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune last year, but couldn’t find one.

A possible buyer for the Lang papers could be Aaron Kushner’s Freedom Communications of Santa Ana, which previously expressed interested in buying the Times and has bought other papers in Southern California, including the Orange County Register. The company already is under way on the launch of its own daily L.A. paper, the Los Angeles Register, which will begin publishing this month. Doctor said he thinks Freedom would only be interested at a fire-sale price.

Finding other buyers for the Lang papers will be difficult, he said, considering that the Register and Times already cover the market.

“Given the competitive situation in Los Angeles, it might be one of the last to go,” he said.

Eric Morgan, Freedom spokesman, would not comment on whether the company is interested in buying any papers from Digital First. A call to Los Angeles News Group publisher Ron Hasse was not returned.

Digging In

Four years after launching, luxury real estate magazine South Bay Digs is reaching north. The Hermosa Beach publisher expects to begin publishing a second edition, Westside Digs, in June.

Warren Dow, owner of the magazine’s parent company, Micro Market Media, said he decided to expand in part due to the urging of real estate agents on the Westside who were looking to be featured in the magazine’s print and digital offerings.

“The Westside is our natural next move,” Dow said. “Multimillion-dollar homes want to be in a luxury, oversized print magazine with high-end architectural photos and videos.”

Dow created South Bay Digs as a way to help agents market properties, but the launch came in October 2010 as the market neared bottom.

The magazine prints about 25,000 copies twice a month and is delivered to homes in neighborhoods with high property values. It is also placed in news racks, and at yacht clubs and hotels.

Digs quickly burned through a substantial upfront investment within months of launching, but Dow said that it had become profitable by spring 2011.

Digs has since realized quick growth. Dow and his handful of employees have been adding more digital offerings to the mix. For example, the company has a YouTube channel and also produces video marketing materials for agents.

The new Westside magazine will cover properties west of the 405. Dow also said he’s looking for office space in the area and preparing to hire a handful of workers for the new edition.

His ambition is to continue introducing new editions, possibly going to Laguna Beach or Newport Beach next and eventually expanding his reach farther.

“We’re going to be going both north and south,” he said, “all the way down to San Diego, to Santa Barbara and beyond.”

Comings and Goings

The Los Angeles Times has promoted Megan Garvey to deputy managing editor of digital and has named Joe Bel Bruno editor of show business section Company Town. Previous Company Town editor Charles Fleming is now a business writer covering automobiles and green energy.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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