Capital City Press, the parent company of The Advocate, and Louisiana State Newspapers have completed an agreement for The Advocate to acquire the assets of four community weekly newspapers in the greater Baton Rouge area. Terms are not disclosed.
The papers involved are the Zachary Plainsman- News in Zachary, The Watchman in East Feliciana Parish, The St. Francisville Democrat in West Feliciana, and The St. Helena Echo in Greensburg. The sale includes each of the assets of the papers web sites, along with a free "shopper" publication, the Zachary Plainsman- Xtra,
Darrell Guillory, the Chief Operating Office of Louisiana State Newspapers, said the decision to sell its newspapers to the Advocate was a strategic one and will allow for local community reporting
"We are happy that these communities will continue to be served by an organization like the Advocate whose commitment to covering the news and providing the reach that local advertisers need is steadfast." Guillory said.
The purchase is part of The Advocate's strategy to deeper its penetration of the Baton Rouge market, giving advertisers and readers more options for local news, in print and online. The Advocate recently upgraded its weekly publications in Ascension and Livingston parishes and started a weekly Southside Advocate in a section of East Baton Rouge Parish.
"We will continue to expand our portfolio of community weeklies to provide additional reach beyond the already powerful market penetration of the daily Advocate in Baton Rouge," said Publisher John Georges, who purchased Capital City Press in 2012.
"I'm glad we could reach an agreement with Louisiana State Newspapers to continue local news coverage for these communities. The combination of these papers will give us an unrivalled news and advertising powerhouse in the arc north of Baton Rouge."
The 62-year-old Plainsman will be converted into a free publication distributed to Zachary subscribers of the daily Advocate and to select non-subscribing households. The new paper will be called the Zachary Advocate and Plainsman and will feature many of the current features of the paper as well as new content from The Advocate staff.
"Our goal is to provide the growing city of Zachary a strong local publication that will allow advertisers to target Zachary residents," said Dan Shea, president of The Advocate.
The Watchman, The Democrat and The Echo will be combined into a new paper, The Advocate Extra. It will be a weekly supplement for Advocate readers in the area, and will be mailed to some current subscribers in St. Helena Parish. It will also be available at newsstands in the three parishes.
"We have substantial number of readers in the three parishes and we have wanted to give them more local coverage," said Advocate Editor Peter Kovacs. "By merging the coverage of the Democrat, the Watchman and the Echo into the Advocate, we will increase our presence in those communities."
Current paid subscribers to the papers who are also Advocate subscribers will be credited with an extension of their Advocate subscriptions equal to their remaining subscription.
Other subscribers to the papers who do not currently subscribe to the Advocate will receive either a two-month free seven-day subscription to The Advocate or a four-month free subscription to the Saturday and Sunday Advocate.
"We will be contacting each subscriber and advertiser to understand their preferences and welcome them them to The Advocate family," Shea said.
Gary Miller, the general manager of the group of papers, will be joining The Advocate to supervise the transition of the papers into The Advocate. Thereafter, he will be a senior executive in the advertising department.
Miller was previously the director of advertising at daily papers in Lafayette, El Paso, TX, Sioux City, IA and several publications in New Mexico. He lives in Baton Rouge.
"We're so happy to have on board a seasoned professional with such broad experience in the business," said Sheila Runnels, The Advocate's vice president of advertising.
Some current employees of the papers will be offered employment with The Advocate, while others will be put on a preferential hiring list should vacancies occur.
The changes are expected to occur in October.
Capital City Press also publishes the The Acadiana Advocate and The New Orleans Advocate, the only daily newspaper in Louisiana's largest city. It employs nearly 400 staffers in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette.
Louisiana State Newspapers, headquartered in Lafayette, publishes several small daily and weekly newspapers throughout the state.