Digital First Media’s suburban Philadelphia newspapers, which include the Daily Local News and Delaware County Daily Times, are staring at an uncertain future, writes Bob Fernandez for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The situation is the result of years of cost-cutting by Digital First Media, which, with 48 million readers, is the third-largest newspaper chain in the country. In recent years, local newsrooms have had to cut staff and even sell off buildings to keep afloat.
At the same time, Digital First is earning high profits from these newspapers. Last year, the chain controlled by Alden Global Capital earned $160 million in profits on $939 million in revenue. Papers from the Philadelphia area contributed $61 million in revenue and $18 million in profits.
However, experts are now warning that many Digital First publications face a potential “turn-the-lights-out scenario,” even in Philadelphia’s wealthy suburbs such as Chester and Delaware counties.
Two years ago, Digital First Media sold the Daily Times building, along with five acres, in Upper Darby for $2 million. The paper has since moved its newsroom and offices into a former bicycle shop in Springfield. According to the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, the paper had 112 employees six years ago, but there are just 25 union-covered employees left today.
In West Chester, Digital First Media has made a deal to sell the Daily Local News building to Toll Brothers. The remaining staffers at the paper either work from home or at Digital First Media’s regional printing plant in Exton.
“There is not a strategy beyond milking those papers,” said Ken Doctor, founder of Newsonomics, a media analysis firm. “It’s a real loss.”
Read more about the plight of suburban Philadelphia newspapers in the Philadelphia Inquirer by clicking here.