Merger Mania Strikes Alt-Weekly Land

The worst kept secret in the alternative newspaper world is officially out. As widely anticipated -- and in some quarters feared -- Village Voice and New Times media announced the creation of the biggest alt newspaper chain today. Here's the recent Phoenix story on the merger. And the press release is below. More details and reaction to come.

Combination creates nation's premier alternative media company

New York and Phoenix - Village Voice Media and New Times Media, the nation's
leading alternative media companies, today announced a definitive agreement
to merge. The new company will be called Village Voice Media and will
publish free weekly newspapers and Web sites in seventeen of the nation's
largest markets.

New Times chief executive officer Jim Larkin will be CEO of the new company,
and New Times executive editor Michael Lacey will be executive editor of the
combined operation. Village Voice CEO David Schneiderman will be President
of Village Voice Digital.

"Together, New Times and Village Voice Media create a truly national media
company with highly desirable demographics, geographic diversity and a
unique print and Internet platform that is poised for tremendous growth,"
said Larkin. "Alternative publications today, particularly those owned by
New Times and the Village Voice, have become the definitive voices for ideas
and information for young, progressive readers."

"This merger combines two recognized leaders in alternative media with
strong reputations for editorial quality, award-winning publications, strong
brand equity and a deep community presence," said Schneiderman. "The Village
Voice and New Times were pioneers in establishing a voice for alternative
media, as we were both born from a desire to create a venue for
high-spirited, innovative public debate, and we believe this merger makes
perfect sense for both companies."

Village Voice Media will have a combined weekly audited circulation of 1.8
million papers and 4.3 million readers weekly when the merger is completed.
Village Voice papers will join New Times' national advertising sales agency
Ruxton Media Group. Ruxton will represent 35 weekly alternative publications
from coast to coast with audited circulations of 3.1 million weekly.

The merger also will bring VVM online classifieds into New Times', which combines the popularity of free classified online
bulletin boards with new revenue opportunities for affiliated papers. The
addition of the six Voice papers means is now licensed to 37
newspapers in major American markets.

New Times' and Village Voice's current portfolio of newspapers and online
assets, which include many of the nation's most respected youth-oriented
publications, are cultural touchstones in their respective communities. They
challenge mainstream sensibilities and provide active readers with in-depth
local news coverage, irreverent humor, spirited criticism, magazine-style
feature writing and the most comprehensive local music, dining, arts and
events listings.

Village Voice Media will have papers and Web sites in New York, Los Angeles,
San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis,
Orange County, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Kansas City, Nashville, the East Bay
including Oakland and Berkeley, and the Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach area.

The Village Voice, which now owns five papers in addition to its New York
City flagship, was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and famed
novelist Norman Mailer and quickly established a reputation for
no-holds-barred reporting and criticism. The New York paper has received
three Pulitzer Prizes and the George Polk Award, as well as Front Page
Awards and Deadline Club Awards, and its daily-updated Web site has twice
been recognized as one of the nation's premier online sites, receiving the
National Press Foundation's Online Journalism Award and the Editor and
Publisher Eppy Award for best U.S. weekly newspaper online.

New Times, which has grown to become the nation's largest publisher of
alternative weeklies with eleven newspapers, was founded in 1970 by Lacey
and others at Arizona State University. From the beginning, New Times
emphasized strong writing and solid reporting of local issues along with
cutting-edge cultural coverage, and its papers have routinely bested the
nation's leading dailies in national and regional writing contests, winning
top awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the George Polk Awards,
and many others. In particular, the chain has posted multiple winners and
national finalists in the Livingston Awards, the nation's top contest
recognizing journalistic excellence from younger writers.

New Times' dynamic growth in the decades since its founding and its refusal
to hew to political party lines in its news coverage has always drawn fire
from some critics within the alternative weekly industry. But others have
defended the company's well-established track record of investigative
reporting. "I think they're committed to uncovering wrongdoing," Jane
Levine, former publisher of the Chicago Reader, told the Boston Phoenix last
month. "It is generally accepted that they don't have a political position.
But I think it's pretty clear that they're bulldogs about uncovering
corporate or governmental malfeasance."

Pending federal regulatory approval, the New Times/Voice merger is expected
to be completed by early 2006
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