The 44-year old Los Angeles Downtown News is up for sale, and while that might signal the end of an era, it’s also a sign of the times.
The paper, which was put on the block two months ago by Sue Laris, its longtime owner, editor, and publisher, could join a string of L.A.-area publications to trade hands over the last year, along with similar-size outlets in other markets.
Laris owns 100 percent of the company after she bought the shares owned by Jim Laris, her ex-husband and the former owner and publisher of the Pasadena Weekly, as part of the couple’s 1979 divorce.
She faces a land-scape in which news-paper mergers are on the rise, but valuations are not.
“In general, the market essentially for print in all its forms is flattening,” said news industry analyst and columnist Ken Doctor of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.
Doctor noted that while daily newspapers have been declining for the past 10 years – suffering print ad revenue losses of roughly 10 percent or more each year – alternative news weeklies and other hyperlocal print publications such as the Downtown News aren’t suffering quite as much.
Still, he cautioned, they’re not doing well.
If recent history is any judge, the Downtown News could prove attractive to a local investor. In February, Denver-based Voice Media Group sold alternative newspaper OC Weekly to Fountain Valley’s Duncan McIntosh Co., owner of Boating World, Editor & Publisher, and other magazines, for an undisclosed amount. Meanwhile, the parent company of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal was acquired by Paladin Multi-Media Group Inc., registered at a home in Westlake Village, at the end of last year from Morris Multimedia Inc. of Savannah, Ga.
“Downtown News would better fit into a group of weeklies or with someone with a daily and a group of weeklies,” said Lloyd Greif, chief executive of downtown investment firm Greif & Co. “That offers an opportunity to create synergies with other titles and from an advertising perspective, more opportunities for package deals.”
One potential contender could be Pasadena-based Southland Publishing Co., which owns other local and regional papers including the Pasadena Weekly, The Argonaut, and the Ventura County Reporter, according to Greif.
Weeklies are typically valued at a multiple of three to five times earnings, said Doctor, with the exact ratio dependent on how well the paper has adapted to offset losses in print advertising with other revenue streams, such as live events and an expanded digital footprint.
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