Portico Publications and Better Publications Merge

The parent companies that produce C-Ville Weekly and The Hook are merging, undoing a corporate divorce that began in January 2002. The plan is just to merge the companies, not the publications, under the name of Charlottesville Publishing Group. There’s no way anybody saw this coming.

It was nine years ago when two of the three owners of C-Ville Weekly pushed out Hawes Spencer from Portico Publications. Within weeks, Spencer started The Hook, taking a bunch of employees with him, under the corporate aegis of Better Publications. That left Rob Jiranek and Bill Chapman with C-Ville Weekly, and the two publications as sometimes-bitter rivals. Jiranek left Portico Publications in 2006, and Portico’s expansion attempts failed earlier this year, just as Cathy Harding resigned as editor.

Presumably this merger will mean that the two businesses can save a lot of money by sharing resources—office space, advertising staff, distribution services, printing costs, etc. C-Ville Weekly currently lacks for an editor, after the departure of Harding, the editor who bridged the gap between Spencer’s departure and now. Between this new corporate arrangement and this opportunity to take C-Ville Weekly in a different editorial direction—for the love of all that is good and holy, axe “The Rant”—the C-Ville Weekly of 2012 could be very different than the C-Ville Weekly of today.

10:00 PM Update: Bill Chapman provides some clarifications and corrections. In a nutshell, Portico still exists—it now publishes the Free Times—and there are no plans to share staff or offices, but contracted work like distribution and printing are certainly areas where they intend to save some money.

11 thoughts on “Portico Publications and Better Publications Merge”

  1. Waldo, thanks for covering this. A few clarifications:
    1. Portico Publications still exists and did not merge with anything. Portico’s main product now is the Free Times of Columbia, SC. C-Ville Weekly was transferred into a new local entity in March.
    2. It’s an exaggeration to say Portico’s expansion efforts failed. The Columbia paper is twice the size it was when we bought it and very healthy. Down the road from there at the Augusta, GA weekly, we also had some growth in the first year or two but then the economy seemed to fall apart on us so we sold it to a local operator who will relaunch it this Thursday.
    3. We don’t plan on sharing advertising staff or offices. Printing contracts and shared distribution teams are under review for sure.

    I will keep you posted on the Editor search and The Rant!

  2. Anyone who has paid attention the last few years has noticed that both publications have gotten thinner and thinner – partly because of the economy, I’m sure, but partly because (as lots of people thought nine years ago) our little town just might not be big enough to support both papers in the long term. I have no idea whose idea this was, or which paper will benefit, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this new parent company quietly and quickly came to the conclusion (if it hadn’t made that decision going in) that Charlottesville is going to be a one-weekly town.

  3. Anything but the Daily Progress/Regress please.

    At least our 2 weekly papers, and especially the Hook, are willing to investigate the press releases they get and determine their truth or falsehood.

    The DP is an arm of the environmental/industrial complex, i.e. – Nature Conservancy( Charlottesville Tomorrow) and Free Enterprise Institute (Development Community). The DP isn’t even close to unbiased journalism. I’ve stopped reading the DP as have many of my friends. We read the Washington Post and New York Times for national news, and the Hook and CvilleWeekly for local news. As long as they appear on different days they cover more local stories, far better than the Daily Progress.

    I predict they will both survive and thrive and the DP will disappear and be replaced by the weekly web-sites.

  4. TJ –

    If you read The Wash. Post, you do read The Progress,
    just a few days earlier.

  5. One of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for myself is to swear off reading The Rant entirely. I’ve been scrupulous about it — I read everything in that paper except for The Rant. And I feel so, so clean as a result…what a foul morass of humanity’s basest impulses.

  6. From CBS-19:

    Hook editor Hawes Spencer says don’t expect things to change, especially when it comes to the two competing for the eyes of Charlottesville readers.

    “The whole idea is to keep both publications strong and independent. We plan on continuing to hate each other,” he said.

  7. All papers have gotten thinner. We’re commenting about paper-news on a web-news site. Everybody’s advertising dollars have gone increasingly to the internet. Both C-Ville and The Hook have apparently healthy on-line advertising sales and the newly launched Daily Deal could be quite a fine revenue stream, assuming that our little city can sustain it. Also assuming that our collective attention span doesn’t continue to degrade to the point where we can’t even remember something for an entire day.

  8. So it sounds like Hawes and his financial backers saved the Cville from going under. No chance The Hook needed this merger, only one of the papers was overstaffed and probably losing money. Must have been hard for Bill to swallow his pride and crawl back to Hawes. I could care less about either publication, but I’m happy to see good win over evil anytime. It’s clear by looking at the online versions which paper thrives.

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