All Village Soup publications shut down

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Mike Lange
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Joined: 12/26/2006 - 6:23am
All Village Soup publications shut down

Very sad news. Some employees were wise enough to leave last year when they saw the handwriting on the wall. Unfortunately, 56 others weren't so fortunate.

I remember when the Capital Weekly walked away with every major Maine Press Association award years ago. That's when Courier Publications ran it and David Morse was CEO.

Editor
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Joined: 04/18/2009 - 3:43pm
The Press Herald Yesterday at

The Press Herald
Yesterday at 10:42 PM
Village Soup news operations shut down
The owner of Village NetMedia publications announces the newspapers will shut down immediately, putting 56 employees out of work.
Staff Report

The Bar Harbor Times, Capital Weekly, VillageSoup Gazette, VillageSoup Journal and the Scene are no more.

The owner of the Village NetMedia publications, Richard M. Anderson...attributed the sudden closure to a failure to restructure the company's financial condition.

"The profound changes in the newspaper publishing business, a weak economy and our investment in new products created severe financial challenges," he wrote.

http://www.pressherald.com/news/Village-Soup-news-operations-shut-down.html

Vic Berardelli
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Joined: 12/26/2001 - 1:01am
The problem facing all local

The problem facing all local media are the changing circumstances of Main Streets and changing news consumption habits of consumers.

Local advertising is the base for these publications but as more and more smaller retailers fold, the ad base population diminishes. Ask local service clubs how many members today are local retailers compared to 30 years ago. And there is a limit to the advertising budget needed for the local lawyer or dentist or tax preparer or physician compared to the almost on-going ads a retailer needs to bring traffic into the store. A national chain big box sends its flyers through a direct mail piece in competition with the weekly print paper or through its own web site rather than buying on-line links through the local weekly's site.

The new media have changed the perception of journalism. A bunch of neighbors with an axe to grind can now throw together a web site and convince the community that they are the local news source. And because they're activists, they can update the site every night when they come home from the town council or school board meeting. Why would anyone wait for a week for the real news source, although it would vet the stories hopefully without an agenda. And why would one pay to access the site or read the print edition when the neighborhood group is giving it away (their profit margin being control of the small community's politics).

I have a lot of experience as editor or manager of some good weeklies. But a few years ago when some well-meaning local business people approached me about starting up a weekly, I consulted myself out of a job. I gave them spread sheets of cost-versus-revenue projects for ten years and asked who in the room had the financial wherewithal or need for a tax write-off to keep writing checks to keep it afloat. It included distribution scenarios ranging from free at point-of-purchase to free direct mail distribution to paid print subscriptions to print/web combos to exclusively web. It included advertising rate cards for various print versions and for various print/web combos against the revenue need for staff, production costs and eventual profit. They gave me a bonus for the consult because, as one of the business people phrased it, "It's worth paying you more than agreed today because you just saved us a sh*tl**d of money! I don't think anyone here is so in love with community news that they'd risk pouring money into a bottomless pit with no return."

Another investor group in love with the idea of being mini-media moguls got the same kind of consult and ignored my advice. Their effort lasted exactly two issues before folding.

That is not to say that community news media cannot survive. There are some good operations around the state. But the economic model for someone who is interested in a return-on-investment and operating margins is becoming more and more unrealistic.

mainemom
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Joined: 03/09/2004 - 1:01am
I blame Sussman.

I blame Sussman.

Tom C
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Joined: 01/03/2006 - 6:00pm
That's too bad, I always

That's too bad, I always liked the Village Soup viewpoint. Good local stuff, too.

mediadog
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Joined: 03/27/2005 - 1:01am
Sussman the savior: First,

Sussman the savior: First, Maine Today Media, so why not Village Soup? That combo would make a tasty bite for Donald and the Mrs.

Naran
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Joined: 10/06/2004 - 12:01am
Not to mention the struggling

Not to mention the struggling Times Record. Heck, $ussman could soon rival Murdoch, if he's ambitious enough.

As for The Village Soup, this is a very sad day for the staffers losing their jobs. I wondered about the effect of the publication's recent move to make online access pay-per-view, with the rates of $90 per year. There are so many other resources available on the web at no cost.

I hope the staffers find jobs.

Watcher
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Joined: 03/23/2008 - 12:32pm
Well, I think closing down

Well, I think closing down this operation because it loses money was way too premature. They could have just adjourned to the basement and printed some more money just like Uncle Hussein does. Why let the debt and cost issue interfere with a good thing.

Mike Lange
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Joined: 12/26/2006 - 6:23am
They went through too many

They went through too many ownership changes, for one thing. Each new owner carried debt. When you're trying to meet payroll and expenses and pay down debt, it's difficult to do in a stale economy.

I knew something would hit the fan right after they closed their printing plant.

Vic also makes some good points. Local mom-and-pop businesses are becoming few and far between, and they used to be the backbone of weekly newspapers.

Mackenzie Andersen
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Joined: 08/06/2010 - 5:25pm
Sussman doesn't have to

Sussman doesn't have to "invest' in any more newspapers- he can just let the rest fail and then create his own version of the small town newspaper and distribute the one and only politically correct views state wide from the top down as one totalitarian system just like the Maine government with its totalitarian network of quasi government agencies that function as wealth redistribution centers and social benefit factories. Sussmen can be the factory that distributes group think the handmaiden of the power elite.

The Boothbay Register really is a a local newspaer and gets frequent and national awards. When I visited Camden and picked up their newspaper it just seemed like a regurgitation of the everywhere press.

Melvin Udall
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Joined: 05/01/2002 - 12:01am
Anyone know if Sussman is

Anyone know if Sussman is the sugar daddy behind Maine Insights?

Vic Berardelli
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Joined: 12/26/2001 - 1:01am
In answer to Naran's most

In answer to Naran's most recent post: Pay-per-view is becoming the norm for media. Rupert Murdoch started it and is phasing it in over the next few months even to Fox News on line. A recent publisher's convention had a session which concluded that most free newspaper sites on the Internet would disappear by the end of 2013 or early-2014. Some publications already in that mode (such as the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal) let you see every headline and the first sentence but if you click for more you are asked to subscribe for access. One speaker equated those who read news for free on the Internet to the kinds of people who stop at a newsstand but, instead of purchasing a print edition, stand there and read the paper before putting it back on the rack.
There is some economic justification for this when you consider that they still have to pay for the staff to gather and edit the news. So the on-line edition does have overhead. The original Internet model could offer content for free because it thought it could be subsidized by pop-up ads and other captured-eyeball revenues. However, the ubiquitous pop-up blocker changed that equation and a new economic model needed to be found.

Editor
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Joined: 04/18/2009 - 3:43pm
It's important to remember

It's important to remember perhaps the number one reason for the rise of internet news: It was an outlet for reporting and opinion rarely, sometimes never, found in the mainstream media. When AMG went from its initial email newsletter format to a bulletin board format, where registered users were able to post their own news and opinion, the comment I heard most often was thanks from people unable to get their letters/op-eds published in the newspaper, or only once every six months or so.

Pamphlets and broadsheets gave way to newspapers. Newspapers gave way to radio. Radio gave way to television. And now the internet, with its ability to send/receive text, images, sound, and video on smart phones, is offering amazing opportunities. It's as Rupert Murdoch once said: The daily newspaper is not going to disappear. It's just not going to be something a paperboy throws on the front porch for your grandfather.

Best,
skf

mediadog
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Joined: 03/27/2005 - 1:01am
All of what Editor said in

All of what Editor said in his post above is correct. Conservatives have found they can go to any number of national websites such as The Daily Caller, to name a good one, and find much more rounded views on the news than they get from the mainstream media. Or, to get something off their chests locally, they have an outlet on AMG.

What is most surprising is the continuing stubbornness demonstrated by so many media chieftains in failing to recognize the new realities of public demand. They seemingly can't understand, for example, what has happened right before their eyes on the cable news channels where an upstart, Fox, once a much-mocked conservative outlier, has become the runaway dominant player. Might this offer a clue to owners and editors of struggling liberal outfits like the Portland Press Herald and Bangor News about what many readers want? Fairness and balance maybe?

Mike Lange
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Joined: 12/26/2006 - 6:23am
The Internet is a great tool

The Internet is a great tool for the news media, but not without its flaws.

The problem with so-called community news sites and bloggers is that there is no way to verify their accuracy before they post stories and-or comments. A good editor is both a gatekeeper and fact checker.

The controversial blog from the Republican State Convention - which seems to have disappeared - would have never been published in a newspaper, but it drew plenty of page views here.

Reader comments are one of the worst ideas ever invented. We don't publish unsigned letters to the editor, but we allow any racist nut case or left wing loon to post anonymous comments at will on the Internet.

Newspapers will survive, but probably in a different form than we're used to. But bad Internet sites won't be around much longer, either.

Mackenzie Andersen
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Joined: 08/06/2010 - 5:25pm
When I lived in New York, it

When I lived in New York, it was a ritual for people to go to the bookstore on Saturday night to wait for the delivery of the Sunday Times. People buy the Boothbay Register- paper format - for a similar reason. It actually is a local newspaper- actually covers the local community- There is a Wiscasset Edition but other than that this is a genuine local enterprise- unique to the local community. News Papers that are not sustained by the Sussman Empire can still survive if they offer something unique to their community- even at the state level there is room for a new newspaper- one that is not slanted to the left. Publishers should pay more heed to the success of Fox News- it is successful in part because it filled a void- served a public that formerly was not served- but also because of its presentational style.

J. McKane
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Joined: 05/22/2005 - 12:01am
A good editor is both a

A good editor is both a gatekeeper and fact checker.

The "facts" being printed as news in the three major Maine newspapers - PPH, BDN, LSJ as well as others - are often erroneous. At times it appears intentional.

taxfoe
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Joined: 03/22/2000 - 1:01am
"What is most surprising is

"What is most surprising is the continuing stubbornness demonstrated by so many media chieftains in failing to recognize the new realities of public demand."

I disagree. This train has a bright light and a loud whistle. They've known it's been coming for years. What they have failed or forgotten to do is to report truthfully, package attractively and still make money doing it. Rather than adapt or admit defeat, they instead bribe Congress to reinvent the internet in a design that guarantees they make money, subscriber and content be damned.

I still buy, albeit reluctantly, local papers all over the country but not as often as I used to. Local news, the only value, has all but vanished and $1 dailies has become the norm. I'm almost to the point where I'll retire this laptop (a pain to haul into a restaurant), pick up a tablet, instead and probably never buy a newspaper again.

I prefer a site like Forbes. I click an unidentified link from Drudge and, if it's Forbes, the first thing I see is their 'Quote of the Day' and a full page ad with a video, usually. I always read the quote and occasionally watch but it's more likely I'll click through to the article. I know Forbes and trust their website and content and am willing to jump through their hoops. If it turns out to be CBS news, I don't like it because the story won't load and I can't move around the page until the ads load. That's a pain, I back out and, if I'm that interested, I'll go find the story from another source. I mean, it isn't like these guys are producing original content anymore.

I don't object to pay per view, so long as it's reasonable but I haven't had to pay anyone, yet. PPH! If you're looking, don't even think of it!

Bob Higgins
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Joined: 02/07/2011 - 2:20pm
As far as online being

As far as online being fact-challenged, it's FAR to easy to cite sources in this manner , but most are far too lazy to do it. Doing so at leat provides a source document list you can "check for yourself."

Roger Ek
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Joined: 11/18/2002 - 1:01am
The Community Observer covers

The Community Observer covers the greater Bangor area. The Moosehead Messenger has become the Highlands Journal & Moosehead Times. The third paper in the chain is the Somerset Times & S V Weekly. It is distributed where the Somerset times and Sebasticook Weekly were distributed. Advertisers get twice the bang for the buck. There is a lot of local content and regional news not appearing elsewhere.

Bob MacGregor
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Joined: 12/13/2003 - 1:01am
From the

From the ashes................................ http://www.penbaytoday.com/

Sukee
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Joined: 11/26/2007 - 8:29pm
It looks like several local

It looks like several local (Rockland area) people have started up on-line news outlets since the demise of Village Soup. However, I don't think any of them will be successful, or looked to as a reliable and accurate NEWS source unless they have paid journalists. Just my opinion. . .

However, I also just read on www.freepressonline.com that Reade Brower, owner of the free weekly "The Free Press" has signed a lettler of intent to purchase all the remaining assets of Village Soup Media. "Brower said he expects the sale to be finalized within days and expects to have newspapers back on the street in Rockland, Camden and Belfast as early as next week. He is meeting with some of the former employees this evening to begin to solidify plans and staffing."

This is great news, and knowing Reade, I think he has the knowledge and skills to pull this off.

Ulsterman
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Joined: 06/13/2000 - 12:01am
Great thread- but almost a

Great thread- but almost a rehash of the conversation we all had about the PPH @ 4 years ago- before OcConner took over.
What ever happened to Mediadog?
The only viable newspaper format I see @ 5 years out is local and maybe state. All other national news/opinion etc. is too easily accessible via other internet sources.
"To Whit" (to quote the good professor frary): Dean Scontras' Facebook page is more interesting, funny, varied and informative than the BDN or PPH editorial pages.

Bob MacGregor
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Joined: 12/13/2003 - 1:01am
Nice to see you, Sukee. I

Nice to see you, Sukee. I figure YOU'RE planning to start a newspaper in the Midcoast, too, in your free time!

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