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Baltimore City Paper up for sale

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The owner of the Baltimore City Paper said Monday that it's looking to sell as it focuses on the media market closer to its Pennsylvania base.

Times-Shamrock Communications, based in Scranton, said it is marketing all five of its alternative weeklies — which cover areas outside Pennsylvania — and four daily newspapers.

"Baltimore City Paper has been a strong, profitable investment for us for many years," said Scott Lynett, Times-Shamrock's CEO, in a statement. "As we look to diversify our family's holdings, it made sense for us to offer City Paper for sale to someone who could take it to the next level of growth."

The City Paper says more than 300,000 people read it weekly, but its circulation was just over 59,000 in December 2012, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations data on the Association of Alternative Newsmedia website. The paper's interim publisher — the previous publisher resigned in July — did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The City Paper's potential sale is just one example of a shifting local media landscape.

The Baltimore Sun's owner, the Tribune Co., had been exploring a sale of its publishing assets, which include the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and five other daily newspapers. Tribune announced last month that it will spin off its newspapers as a separate company and focus on its expanding television station business.

The future of Baltimore-area Patch sites, AOL's struggling hyperlocal news organization, is up in the air as its parent company decides which of its sites nationwide should be shut down. AOL did not respond to a request for comment.

In July, the tourism magazine Maryland Life said it was ceasing publication, blaming low ad sales. Last year, the longtime owner of the Baltimore Jewish Times sold the publication and Style magazine in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the Baltimore-based Catholic Review shifted from a weekly to a biweekly.

The pressures buffeting daily newspapers have not bypassed alternative weeklies, said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute. The Boston Phoenix alt weekly shut down in March after 47 years, saying it could not go on in the face of "significant financial losses."

The recession cut into revenue, and online advertising options keep growing.

"It's no secret that Google … Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and others are very aggressive and keep building their share in that space," Edmonds said.

Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, said alt-weekly leaders know the pre-Internet revenue days are gone, but she's seeing signs of a turnaround from the recession's effects.

Small companies that advertise in alt weeklies are digging out of their recessionary holes, she said, and increasing interest in eating and buying locally is also good for the locally focused papers.

"We just had our annual convention in Miami — it was the largest we've had in years," Shackelford said. "And there was across the board a spirit of optimism."

The Baltimore Sun Media Group, which also publishes magazines, community newspapers and dozens of neighborhood web sites, launched b five years ago as a free tabloid, focusing on younger readers. It initially was published five days a week and competed against the also-free Baltimore Examiner, which folded in 2009. In 2011, b moved to a weekly publication and expanded its online presence.

Renee Mutchnik, marketing director for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, said b has a circulation of 85,000 and is profitable. But she would not say whether the company is considering a purchase of the City Paper.

"We do not comment on possible business opportunities," she said by email.

The City Paper has been owned by Times-Shamrock since 1987. It began a decade earlier as City Squeeze.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jsmithhopkins

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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