The Ruxton Group Adds Two More Papers

PitchWeekly and Metro Times Are the Latest to Defect From AWN.

Over the past 11 months, the pool of newsweeklies represented by The Ruxton Group has swelled from 18 to 24.

Now make it 26.

Kansas City’s PitchWeekly and Detroit’s Metro Times are the latest AAN papers to join Ruxton’s ranks, it was announced earlier this month. With its two most recent additions, the New Times, Inc.-owned Ruxton now represents papers with a collective weekly circulation of approximately 2.2 million.

Metro Times defection from the Alternative Weekly Network [AWN] to Ruxton was widely anticipated. The 110,000-circulation newsweekly was one of the three former Alternative Media Inc. [AMI] properties sold to the Scranton, Pa.-based Times Shamrock Group in January, and it was the last AMI paper to make the transition to Ruxton. The San Antonio Current and Orlando Weekly left AWN in April.

PitchWeekly’s decision to withdraw from the national advertising cooperative was also no surprise — at least not to AWN Executive Director Mark Hanzlik.

“[PitchWeekly Publisher] Hal Brody was a member of our board,” says Hanzlik, “and in our meetings, he was always very outspoken with his criticism of AWN. So, we kind of knew he would be the next guy to leave. When I asked [Brody] why he left, he said something like, ‘It’s something I always wanted to do.'”

Hanzlik thinks he understands why Brody and others from well-established alternatives have severed their long-standing ties with AWN to sign on with Ruxton. He describes the past year’s rash of defections this way: “We have a hundred and some papers. [Ruxton’s] got 26. [Brody and the like] want more [personal] attention. He wants to be stroked in a special way. We can’t fight that.”

Brody agrees with Hanzlik’s analysis. “I felt we would get more attention with Ruxton,” he says. “Although AWN has done some great things for us I felt that at this time it made more sense for us to be part of a well-organized national sales force representing a smaller group. Time will tell if I made the right choice.”

Asked to explain why so many AAN papers had recently left AWN for Ruxton, Michele Laven, publisher of the Phoenix New Times and executive vice-president of New Times, Inc., emphasized the organization’s operational strengths. “Ruxton now has a full-time staff of 15 employees, including eight people in the sales department based in key locations across the country,” she said. “In addition, we have created a business and back-room operation that serves the needs of our member papers swiftly and efficiently, especially in the area of collections and payment.”