One year ago, an investment group led by Richard L. Connor purchased the media holdings in Maine of The Seattle Times Co. The newspapers they acquired had suffered through a 15-month sale process and the impacts of a long recession, with falling revenues and circulation, multiple cutbacks and a lack of direction.
A year later, MaineToday Media has taken several steps to stablize the business. Print circulation has stopped declining, defying general trends in the industry. Overall advertising revenue is no longer in freefall, and some sectors – notably automobile advertising – are up significantly. On an annual basis, the newspapers are profitable.
“We believe we’ve turned the ship around,” Connor, the publisher and chief executive officer, said recently.
One of MaineToday Media’s first strategies was to sell The Portland Press Herald’s historic, downtown office building and former printing plant. The sale of 390 and 385 Congress St. allowed MaineToday Media to pay down loans used to buy the assets of The Seattle Times and reduce bank debt. The new owner, John Cacoulidis, plans to begin gutting the interior of the newspaper building this summer for new office, and possibly, residential space.
The sale left MaineToday Media looking for a new home. After exploring several options, the company chose to lease modern office space a block away at One City Center. The decision allowed the company to consolidate news, advertising and administration operations downtown, while moving circulation and other production functions to the printing plant in South Portland. The moves were completed in late May.
Available space and printing capacity in South Portland also made it possible for the company to print the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, and close production facilities in Augusta. It since has put the Kennebec Journal offices up for sale.
As part of the reorganization, news staffs in central Maine have begun working more closely with their colleagues in Portland, a collaboration on display most recently in coverage of the campaign for Maine’s next governor.
MaineToday Media also has been upgrading its website, pressherald.com, launching a revamped version last winter. Redesigns also were carried out at kjonline.com and onlinesentinel.com.