Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times acquired long-time competitor, The Tampa Tribune, and immediately shut it down. Effective May 4, the Times will honor all Tribune subscriptions and advertising agreements, according to a press release issued by the Times.
The sale terminated a 29-year rivalry between the two daily newspapers, leaving Tampa with one major metro paper. Following the sale, the Times has become the fifth largest Sunday newspaper in the country, based on sales of printed copies. According to Poynter, redundant functions will be eliminated, including newsroom positions. Tash said at least 100 layoffs are expected.
“The continued competition between the two newspapers was threatening to both,” said Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash. “There are very few cities that can sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”
The Times is an independent newspaper, owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
“It’s fair to say we’ve seen this day coming for a very long time,” added Tash. “To all the Tribune customers, we say welcome. We call ourselves Florida’s Best Newspaper not to brag, but as a commitment to our readers and advertisers.
According to Poynter, the Times sold its headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg in April for $19 million. Proceeds from the sale were used to help finance the purchase of the Tribune. Prior to that, in February, the Times had taken over the printing of the Tribune and its specialty publications as well as affiliate publications and printing for its commercial partners.
Because The Tampa Tribune was privately owned, its financials have not been made available, but while it was owned by Media General, the newspaper was losing more than $1 million a month, reports Poynter.
That’s one way to get rid of the competition, but it isn’t the first time this happened, nor will it be the last. The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer had a lengthy, very public rivalry for decades. The Seattle P-I still exits, but it ceased printing in March 2009 and is now a digital-only publication. The Seattle Times remains the only major metro daily newspaper in Seattle, though it has undergone through restructuring, layoffs and moving from its headquarters to a smaller facility.
Gannett is in the process of expanding by acquiring other newspaper properties as well, including a public tug-of-war between Gannett and Tribune Publishing, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and nine other dailies. As late as yesterday, Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro said he is working on a takeover bid to buy Gannett, says Politico.
Bottom line: it is tough time to be in the newspaper business. Publishers have to be profitable, and have to adapt quickly to their readers and advertisers’ needs or get left behind as the bigger fish like Gannett, McClatchy and Scripps swallow them up. For companies like Gannett, purchasing vulnerable companies like the Tampa Tribune is an easy way to grow while eliminating the competition.