Changes are coming, although direction is uncertain.
Buffalo Beat has new owners. In a deal that closed yesterday, David Laurence Publishing purchased the 5-year-old alternative from founder and publisher Mark Maussner. Although the company is new to the weekly newspaper business, it has been publishing the glossy city magazine Buffalo Spree since 1998.
David Laurence Publishing co-owner Larry Levite said his company plans to make several changes at Buffalo Beat, including coming up with a new name that’s “a little hipper” and moving the paper’s office to suburban Williamsville. He said the company also plans to change the weekly’s editorial focus, although it is not yet certain which direction to take. Nevertheless, he was adamant that the paper would not compete with the city’s other AAN member, the older, edgier, Artvoice.
“They have their own alternative niche and we want to find our alternative niche,” Levite said. “We’ve been successful with our magazine and we’ll be successful with this.”
Buffalo Beat Editor Jeff Miers agreed that the paper needs to find its own space in the market. He called Artvoice a “beautiful publication” that provides strong coverage of Buffalo’s cultural and arts scene, but he claimed that the weekly has left a void in news coverage that he wants to fill.
“We were kind of losing the battle to Artvoice,” Miers said. “Everything I want to do is clearly AAN-mandate kind of stuff… We plan to make it a stronger AAN paper.”
Miers said he met with Levite and his partner David McDuff after the sale was announced and had to convince them to retain him as editor. According to Miers, he has taken the paper “clearly left” since he took over as editor last year, and the new owners wanted more “balance” in the news coverage. Miers said he agreed to a more balanced approach in the front of the book since Levite and McDuff made a commitment to provide more resources and to keep the paper “alternative.”
Miers said the first signal of the new owners’ commitment will come in the next few weeks when they bump the page count from the low 40s to 64 and take the circulation up from 40,000 to 60,000. He also said they retained the entire staff. “As of now, yes, [David Laurence Publishing] is absorbing everyone,” Miers said. “Weeklies are a new thing for them and they need us.”
In addition to Buffalo Beat, Levite and McDuff also acquired from Maussner a company that publishes playbills for nine area theaters. In separate deals announced simultaneously, the group also purchased a magazine geared toward seniors and a relocation guide.
According to the local daily Buffalo News, Levite and McDuff bought the now 35-year-old Buffalo Spree late in 1998 and “transformed (its) black-and-white format to a glossy, full-color style, more than doubled its size from 100 pages to 250, and boosted its stable of advertisers.”
Buffalo Beat was admitted to AAN at the 1999 convention, on its second application. It was the only paper admitted that year that was not endorsed by the Admissions Committee.