The war over declining ad revenue between the Motor City’s biggest alt-weeklies ended with the stunning announcement Monday evening that Real Detroit Weekly and the Detroit Metro Times are merging.
The move places the free newsweeklies under the ownership of Cleveland-based Euclid Media, which purchased the Metro Times in December. The merged weeklies will retain the Metro Times name.
The goal is to revive the once-booming Metro Times with more investigative reporting, features and progressive viewpoints after the weekly’s budget and credibility began to sink under the pervious ownership, Times-Shamrock, of Scranton, Penn.
For its part, Real Detroit was never a heavy hitter in journalism and was dominated by advertisements and stories about entertainment, fashion and the nightlife.
The merger allows the struggling weeklies to centralize advertising, financial and editorial functions.
“Real Detroit Weekly has published the best in music and entertainment coverage for over 15 years,” said Real Detroit Weekly Publisher John Badanjek, who will serve as the merger’s president of events alongside Chris Keating, publisher of the Metro Times. “We’re excited to join forces with the Metro Times to create a ‘superweekly’ that will offer metro Detroiters more music, art, political, dining and nightlife coverage than previously possible.
“With an aggressive increase in circulation, the new paper will be capable of serving the needs of both Metro Times and Real Detroit Weekly readers. The new paper will feature the Metro Times’ award-winning journalism combined with Real Detroit‘s cutting-edge stories.”
To boost the quality of the journalism, the Metro Times recently hired Valerie Vande Panne, an award-winning journalist and former editor of High Times, as its editor-in-chief. The newsweekly also brought back veteran investigative reporter Curt Guyette, who now works with the ACLU in Detroit.
In 1999, during the nationwide boom at alt-weeklies, the Metro Times was estimated to be raking in $8 million in annual revenue – more than twice what it makes now. At that time, the Metro Times circulated 110,000 copies, compared to roughly 50,000 today.
While the leadership hopes to increase the circulation by more than 50%, much of the focus is on improving its website with daily updates and fresh stories as digital advertising becomes increasingly popular.
Of the merger, Keating said, “John and I are both excited to merge these brands into one. Undeniably, it’s great to have a partnership where we maintain local ownership as well as continue to employ the hard-working people that really make these two papers great. Moving forward, the new company will take the best of both from Real Detroit Weekly and Metro Times — print, digital and events — and re-launch into a stronger and more balanced voice for the greater Detroit community. John will continue to raise hell, as he’s been doing for the past 15 years, and also focus on expanding our audience through an increase in signature events.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.