According to San Francisco newspaper mogul Todd Vogt, he is set to buy another Bay Area publication. The question is, which one?
The SF Newspaper Company, a consortium including Vogt and the CEO of Canadian newspaper company Black Press, already owns the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. And they will soon be purchasing another local publication, Vogt confirmed in an email exchange with The Appeal. Disappointingly, however, Vogt declined to say which publication is the target.
“The new acquisition will be highly complimentary to The Examiner and the Guardian,” Vogt wrote to The Appeal.
“[The acquisition] will give us, by far, the greatest readership, reach and audience in the Bay Area, effectively covering every demographic in every corner of The City.”
For months, industry insiders have gossiped that Vogt has had his eye on both the independently-owned East Bay Express and the Voice Media Group owned San Francisco Weekly.
Vogt hasn’t been shy about his desire to buy as many papers as possible, telling the Wall Street Journal in May, 2012 that he expressed interest in buying papers run by MediaNews Group Inc., which owns several Bay Area papers including the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune.
As of May, 2012, the MediaNews Group papers were not for sale, and a spokesperson for the chain told the Journal “I wish [Vogt] every success. He obviously sounds very competitive.”
“I’ve said before that I would [be] interested in any publications in the Bay Area and that remains true today” Vogt told The Appeal Thursday.
An East Bay Express acquisition could provide at least one Examiner staffer with more than just the “great synergies operationally, editorially, in distribution, production and in sales” Vogt told The Appeal the new purchase would bring to the company: Stephen Buel, the Examiner’s editor-in-chief since February 2012, reportedly retained 13% of the Express after departing the paper in 2010.
As of publication time, however, most of Vogt’s rumored targets were unwilling to discuss the possibility of a sale. Voice Media Group would not comment to The Appeal on a possible SF Weekly sale, and calls made to the East Bay Express were not returned. [Update: at 11:37 AM Friday, The East Bay Express tweeted "Yo @sfappeal: The Express is not for sale," linking to a blog post that says that "Jay Youngdahl, president of the Express, told the staff this morning that our newspaper is 'definitely not for sale' and that owners of the Examiner are not buying the Express."]
One thing we do know: It’s not venerable local LGBTQ focused publication the Bay Area Reporter, according to Mike Yamashita, the general manager.
“We get approached all the time,” he said, “But, we are not for sale.”
Given Vogt’s continued faith in newspaper as a medium – as recently as May of this year, Vogt told this reporter that he believes that “at this point there’s still a demand for trees and ink” – another print publication appears to be a likely target.
Local media consolidation, reported the San Francisco Bay Guardian in February of this year, is one of the reasons “journalism in the Bay Area has been in decline for many years.”
“And with its waning institutional strength, the Fourth Estate has lost some of its ability to watchdog the powerful, creating a dangerous situation in a country founded on the belief that a free press is an essential safeguard of liberty and fairness” the Guardian wrote in a piece entitled “Compressing the Press.”
Just two months later, the Guardian announced its acquisition by the SF Newspaper Company.
Vogt tells The Appeal that he is “looking at making an announcement on an acquisition today or tomorrow.”
Until then, we encourage as much speculation you can muster in the comments.