Black Press and Glacier Media Inc. have struck deals to swap more than a dozen community newspapers and digital titles in British Columbia, concentrating media ownership across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
In one deal, Black Press will acquire 11 titles from Glacier Media including the Nanaimo Daily News, Alberni Valley Times and Maple Ridge Times. In a separate purchase, Glacier is buying the Tri-City News, Burnaby New West NewsLeader and Richmond Review in return.
The acquisitions give Black Press a dominant position on Vancouver Island, where it now owns all papers except the Victoria Times Colonist, which stays under Glacier's control. The deals between the province's two largest newspaper publishers, which own a combined 250 titles across Canada and the United States, will consolidate control of competing publications under one owner.
When the deals close, Black Press will own two news outlets in Nanaimo, the Alberni Valley and Maple Ridge, for example. Glacier will double its presence in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby and Richmond.
"We're built around geographic clusters, and we're continuing to refine that," said Rick O'Connor, president and CEO of Black Press, in an interview.
Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. Control of most of the titles will change on March 2, 2015.
David Black, chairman and majority owner of Black Press, said some of the community papers changing hands are losing money due to falling advertising revenue, and need "streamlining." But he said it would be "premature" to assume that some competing papers might close as a result of the deals.
"I think there'll be various ways we can work together and do things. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to go into these markets and close titles. There's other approaches," Mr. Black said. "For example, if both papers are coming out twice a week, maybe one should go to once a week."
He also said he would hesitate to cut jobs at papers that have already shed staff in recent years. "I'm not sure they can be run very well with a lower complement of people," he said.
Glacier Media plans to use proceeds from this week's deals to pay down debt, which stood at $79.8-million as of Sept. 30, and expects to keep the three papers it is acquiring from Black Press open, said president and CEO Jonathon Kennedy.
"It strengthens our position in the Vancouver area," he said, and allows the company to focus on "high-growth" aspects of its business, such as mining information.
Glacier reported a $1.8-million profit in its most recent quarter despite revenue falling 2.2 per cent from the prior year. Cost-cutting measures have saved $10-million in annual spending, though the company announced in January that it would shutter The Kamloops Daily News after 80 years in print.
The two companies have swapped newspapers before, most recently in 2013 when Black Press acquired the Abbotsford/Mission Times and Chilliwack Times and Glacier received four titles in return, including the North Shore Outlook.
Little more than a month later, Black Press closed the Abbotsford/Mission Times, which was losing "a lot of money" and competed with the company's Abbotsford News. But Mr. Black pointed out that the company has kept both of its Chilliwack papers afloat.
The remaining titles Black Press is buying are the Harbour City Star, Cowichan Citizen, Parksville Oceanside Star, Tofino/Ucluelet Westerly News, Comox Valley Echo, Campbell River Courier, Surrey Now and Langley Advance.