New Owners of The Octopus Plan to Invest

Hope to build circulation

The new owners of The Octopus, a six-year old weekly paper in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., plan to add staff at the paper and hope to increase circulation in a matter of months.

“We want the content of the paper to be a good reflection of what’s going on in Champaign-Urbana,” says Warren Lada, senior vice president for Saga Communications, Inc., the company that purchased The Octopus this month.

Based in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., Saga is traded on the American Stock Exchange. The company owns close to 60 radio stations across the country, including three in Champaign, and also operates five television stations.

The company bought The Octopus in early October from Yesse! Communications, Inc., based in Indianapolis, Ind., and may pursue purchases of other alternative weeklies.

Craig Hitchcock, chairman and CEO of Yesse!, says his company is pleased with the sale and that college-town Champaign deserves an aggressive alternative weekly.

Small-market woes and the slowing economy led Yesse! Communications to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. Hitchcock said at that time that Yesse! would try to find a buyer for The Octopus. Yesse! also closed Icon, an Iowa City weekly, earlier this year.

“We had determined that it was going to be hard in the smaller markets to do what we wanted to do in terms of our corporate goals, and it would be better to focus on our acquisitions in mid-sized markets,” Hitchcock says.

Yesse’s remaining papers are AAN members Bloomington Independent, Impact Weekly and Illinois Times.

Lada says that Saga’s five radio stations in Illinois will help the paper. “There will be some synergy at least on a promotional and marketing basis.”

He also points out that the stations have a good news presence in the state that could also help The Octopus on the editorial side of the ledger.

The Octopus currently prints 25,000 copies. Hitchcock says the six-year-old paper has been operating in the red.

The Octopus applied for AAN membership in 2001. Lada says he plans to improve the paper’s editorial content and hopes to attain AAN membership in the future.

Matt Pulle is a staff writer for the Nashville Scene.

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