“It’s got all the elements of a great community newspaper market that we look for,” said World-Herald CEO Terry Kroeger, including Texas A & M University, a strong medical community and a great business environment. “We think it’s a terrific market, and it was available at a reasonable price.”
The Eagle’s average Sunday circulation in March 2012 was 26,637, an increase of 9.5 percent over March 2011, according to data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Average daily circulation increased about 7 percent, to 22,685. Its digital editions had about 4,300 readers.
Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy most of Media General’s print newspapers last month, and Buffett has talked about buying more. With the addition of The Eagle, Buffett now owns or has agreed to acquire at least 88 weekly and daily newspapers in Iowa, Nebraska, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, New York and Texas. In a letter to editors and publishers of Media General’s papers last month, Buffett said future newspaper purchases would take place in “towns and cities with a strong sense of community”:
If a citizenry cares little about its community, it will eventually care little about its newspaper. In a very general way, strong interest in community affairs varies inversely with population size and directly with the number of years a community’s population has been in residence. Therefore, we will focus on small and mid-sized papers in long-established communities.
Buffett was an advocate of newspapers installing paywalls before his shopping spree. In the same letter quoted above, he said offering content free online is “an unsustainable model.”
He also listed what he saw as the circumstances surrounding papers that have failed:
(1) The town or city had two or more competing dailies; (2) the paper lost its position as the primary source of information important to its readers, or (3) the town or city did not have a pervasive self-identity.
“We don’t face these problems,” Buffett wrote about Berkshire’s papers.
Buffett has pledged his papers will maintain their news hole and hasn’t said anything I’ve been able to find about layoffs. In an interview with Howard Kurtz, Buffett expressed skepticism about Advance Newspapers’ plans to cut print frequency at several of its papers, including the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“This three-day-a-week stuff really kills you,” Buffett says. “You want people who look at you every day…Once people get used to online, I don’t think they come back.”