New Times, Inc. History

1201 East Jefferson Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85034

Telephone: (602) 271-0040
Fax: (602) 253-4884

Private Company
Incorporated: 1970
Employees: 950
Sales: $120 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 511110 Newspaper Publishers

Company Perspectives:

Since its founding in 1970, New Times has grown to become the largest group of metropolitan newsweeklies in the U.S. Our papers routinely best America's major dailies in national and regional writing competitions. And we make a difference in our communities, by breaking news, by taking the time to interpret it, and by offering readers a weekly respite from the hurried fact-finding of daily journalism. A growth-oriented company with an interest in major American markets, New Times publishes papers in twelve of the country's most vibrant cities.

Key Dates:

The Arizona Times (later, Phoenix New Times) is founded by Michael Lacey and a group of counterculture students at Arizona State University.
New Times acquires Westword in Denver, Colorado.
New Times acquires the Wave and renames it Miami New Times.
New Times acquires the Dallas Observer.
New Times acquires Houston Press.
New Times acquires the Rustin Group, a national advertising representative firm in Chicago.
New Times acquires L.A. View and Los Angeles Reader and combines them into New Times Los Angeles.
New Times launches Broward-Palm Beach New Times in south Florida.
New Times acquires Riverfront Times in St. Louis, Missouri, and Cleveland Scene.
New Times acquires PitchWeekly in Kansas City, Missouri.
New Times acquires Fort Worth Weekly in Texas.
New Times acquires East Bay Express in California and sells Fort Worth Weekly.

Company History:

New Times, Inc. is the largest chain of alternative weekly newspapers in the United States, based on circulation. Its papers are distributed for free in 12 of the top 25 markets and rely on advertising dollars for revenue. Its editorial policy is to encourage hard news reporting and lengthy investigative pieces. Although many of the exposés appearing in its papers are controversial, New Times reporters and editors have gained a reputation for excellence by winning numerous awards at the national, state, and local levels.

Beginnings with the Arizona Times: 1970s

The New Times chain of alternative newsweeklies began in 1970 with the founding of the Arizona Times, which later became the Phoenix New Times. The paper was started by Michael Lacey, a dropout from Arizona State University, and a group of counterculture students in response to the shootings at Kent State University during the Vietnam War. The paper's initial print run in 1970 was 16,000 copies. Two years later Jim Larkin, also a college dropout, joined as the paper's business manager.

During the 1970s both Lacey and Larkin left the paper after it had gone public. They regained control of the paper in 1977 and took it private with an $800,000 loan from a local savings and loan institution. Lacey became the paper's executive editor, and Larkin its president. From 1976 to 1977 the paper's circulation had plummeted from 40,000 to 17,000. After Lacey and Larkin regained control, they moved the paper's editorial offices from the Arizona State University campus in Tempe to Phoenix, renaming the paper Phoenix New Times. Circulation was handled by Scott Spear, a former record-store owner. Without an urban inner city where most weeklies were distributed, Spear placed the free paper in racks at suburban convenience stores and other locations such as gas stations and restaurants. Eventually, Phoenix New Times also was distributed in the city's central business district and circulation grew to 140,000 weekly by the early 1990s.

Acquisition of Two Papers in Major Markets: 1980s

In May 1983 New Times acquired Westword, a biweekly published in Denver with a circulation of 40,000, for about $67,000. New Times made Westword a weekly and increased its circulation to 100,000. Cofounder Patricia Calhoun remained as editor, and the paper expanded beyond its arts and entertainment coverage by running more investigative stories.

In September 1987 New Times purchased the Wave, an alternative weekly in Miami, and renamed it Miami New Times. After spending only a few thousand dollars to acquire the alternative weekly, New Times invested $1.4 million in the paper and began producing longer investigative stories.

For the fiscal year ending in June 1991, New Times' three newspapers generated revenue of $16 million on a combined circulation of 315,000. Profits were about $2.5 million.

More Aggressive Acquisition: 1990s

New Times acquired the Dallas Observer in the fall of 1991 for an estimated $3 million. It was the fourth newspaper in New Times' chain of weeklies, and the first time the company had to pay a substantial amount to acquire a paper. The Dallas Observer had a circulation of 85,000, annual revenue of about $3 million, and was profitable. Both Westword and the Wave were losing money when New Times acquired them. In a fortunate turn of events, the Dallas Observer's only alternative competition, the Dallas Times Herald, was subsequently acquired by the daily Dallas Morning News. Following the acquisition New Times increased the editorial staff at the paper from four to ten people and increased the number of pages.

With the acquisition of the Dallas Observer, New Times was the largest publisher of alternative weeklies in the United States, based on circulation. Its four newspapers had a combined circulation of 410,000, compared with a circulation of 172,000 for New York's Village Voice. For the rest of the 1990s and beyond, New Times pursued a strategy to acquire alternative weeklies in the 15 largest markets in the United States.

In 1993 New Times added a fifth weekly to its chain with the purchase of the financially troubled Houston Press. Founded in 1989 by Niel Morgan and Chris Hearne, the Houston Press was the city's first free major arts, news, and entertainment weekly. Although circulation grew and advertising increased, the paper suffered from a high level of debt and was never profitable. At the time it was sold to New Times, the paper had a weekly circulation of 80,000 copies. It was sold to New Times for an estimated $2.75 million. The acquisition boosted circulation of the New Times chain to more than 500,000, and the company had revenue of more than $35 million in fiscal 1993.

In 1995 New Times acquired the Ruxton Group, a Chicago-based national advertising representative firm. The acquisition gave potential advertisers a readership base of 1.4 million, based on the network of 14 alternative weeklies represented by Ruxton. The readership of 1.4 million consisted primarily of 18- to 49-year-olds and 14 of the top 25 markets in the United States. New Times' six alternative weeklies were part of the network.

New Times' next addition to its chain of papers was a Los Angeles weekly, L.A. View, which the company acquired in mid-1996. After acquiring the paper, New Times fired its executive editor, managing editor, and music editor. Around the same time New Times also purchased another Los Angeles weekly, Los Angeles Reader. It combined the two weeklies into a new publication called L.A. New Times. Most of the staff at L.A. View and the Los Angeles Reader were laid off following the purchase. Jack Cheevers, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, was hired as managing editor of L.A. New Times, and Rick Barr, a former night city editor with the Times, was hired as the paper's editor.

L.A. New Times would compete head-on with the well-known alternative L.A. Weekly. L.A. New Times launched with a circulation of 100,000, compared with L.A. Weekly's circulation of 195,000. L.A. Weekly's owner also owned New York's Village Voice and Orange County's OC Weekly. With respect to competition between L.A. New Times and L.A. Weekly, Michael Lacey was quoted by Mediaweek as saying, "L.A. is so large that we're sure the city can support two weekly papers." By comparison, New Times' acquisition of the SF Weekly in January 1995 had not proved profitable in a market dominated by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

New Times expanded its presence in south Florida in 1997 with the launch of Broward-Palm Beach New Times. Maureen Olson, classified ad director at Miami New Times, became publisher of Broward-Palm Beach New Times. The weekly launched in November 1997 with a staff of about ten reporters and editors, with offices located in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. Within the first year circulation increased by 10,000 copies to 70,000.

In August 1998 New Times acquired Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly that was founded in 1970 as a music publication. Following the acquisition New Times expanded the paper's editorial staff and hired staff writers. In 1999 Cleveland Scene won prizes in prestigious national competitions, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors contest, The National Society of Newspaper Columnists Awards, and the Clarion Awards sponsored by the Association of Women in Communications.

At the end of 1998 the New Times chain of alternative weeklies grew to ten with the acquisition of St. Louis's Riverfront Times. Ray Hartmann, the Riverfront Times' founder and former owner, agreed to promote all of the New Times weeklies in his role as editorial chairman. He also would continue to write a column for the Riverfront Times. Following the acquisition New Times altered the emphasis of the Riverfront Times, eliminating many of the columnists and focusing on hard news reporting.

In 1999 New Times acquired PitchWeekly of Kansas City, Missouri. Altogether, New Times' holdings of 11 weekly newspapers would have a combined distribution of 1.1 million. At the time it was acquired, PitchWeekly was profitable and had a circulation of 100,000.

New Times acquired the FW Weekly of Forth Worth, Texas, in 2000. The paper had a weekly distribution of 40,000. In 2001 Lee Newquist, whom New Times had named as publisher of FW Weekly, bought the paper back from New Times for an undisclosed sum.

New Times bolstered its presence in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2001 with the purchase of the East Bay Express, a locally owned weekly in Berkeley, California. The East Bay Express had a circulation of nearly 60,000 and served the Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda County, and East Bay communities.

At the end of 2001, New Times' formula for acquiring and growing alternative weekly newspapers appeared to be working. The company's papers had gained a reputation for excellence reflected in the numerous awards its writers and reporters had won over the years. Editorial content had led to higher circulation and greater advertising revenue. Miami New Times had a circulation of more than 100,000 in 2001. In Texas the Dallas Observer's circulation was 110,000, and the Houston Press reached more than 260,000 readers every week. In Los Angeles the New Times Los Angeles reached more than 430,000 readers on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, the Ruxton Group had grown to represent advertising for 28 weeklies in major markets. For the future it would not be surprising to see New Times acquire more alternative weekly papers in top markets.

Principal Competitors: Village Voice Media Inc.; Gannett Co., Inc.; The Hearst Corporation.

Further Reading:

  • Barrett, William P., "Boom Times for New Times," Forbes, October 14, 1991, p. 78.
  • Bates, Eric, "Chaining the Alternatives," Nation, June 29, 1998, p. 11.
  • Bishop, Ed, "Eliminating Columnists from the RFT Signals Profound Change," St. Louis Journalism Review, February 1999, p. 4.
  • Davis, Joel, "'Express' Eyed by New Times," Editor & Publisher, January 15, 2001, p. 9.
  • Fischer, Howard, and Vince Maietta, "Dallas Weekly Becomes Fourth Paper in New Times Chain," Business Journal, July 15, 1991, p. 9.
  • Gibson, Mike, "Mini-Conglomerates Eating Up Alternative Papers," St. Louis Journalism Review, July-August 1996, p. 13.
  • Gonderinger, Lisa, "New Times Purchases Chicago Ad Rep Firm," Business Journal, December 1, 1995, p. 18.
  • Greenberg, Laura, "Lacey and Larkin," Phoenix Magazine, 1990,
  • Harris, Ellen, "Hartmann Becomes Corporate Animal," St. Louis Journalism Review, December 1998, p. 1.
  • Hawkins, Lori, "New Times Ahead: Houston Press Sold to Phoenix Chain," Houston Business Journal, October 4, 1993, p. 1.
  • Lunsford, Darcie, "Sun-Sentinel, New Times Ready to Race for Readers," South Florida Business Journal, September 5, 1997, p. 10.
  • Margolies, Dan, "The New Times," Kansas City Business Journal, October 22, 1999, p. 2.
  • Morthland, John, "From New Times to Boom Times," American Way, 1993,
  • Moses, Lucia, "The Alternative Universe," Editor & Publisher, October 8, 2001, p. 8.
  • ------, "New Times Inc. Adds Another Alternative to Its Bullpen," Editor & Publisher, October 23, 1999, p. 18.
  • ------, "New Times Inc. to Buy 'FWW,'" Editor & Publisher, August 21, 2000, p. 13.
  • "New Times Buys Texas Weekly," Mediaweek, August 21, 2000, p. 5.
  • Patoski, Joe Nick, "Rags to Riches," Texas Monthly, June 1994, p. 66.
  • Sacharow, Anya, "War of the Weeklies in L.A.," Mediaweek, September 9, 1996, p. 8.
  • Steers, Stuart, "Paper Could Be Its Own Worst Dream: A Mainstream Success," Denver Business Journal, November 20, 1992, p. 3.
  • Turner, Dan, "Publishing Giants Go Toe-to-Toe with Rival Alternative Weeklies," Los Angeles Business Journal, September 30, 1996, p. 9.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 45. St. James Press, 2002.