Worcester Phoenix Closes Doors

AAN-competitor Worcester Magazine still standing.

“This is goodbye, ” writes Phoenix Media/Communications Group Chairman Stephen M. Mindich in today’s final issue of the Worcester Phoenix.

Citing an inability to find a companion regional radio presence in the Worcester market and an overall slumping economy, Mindich says closing the eight-year-old alternative weekly is “an emotional wrench.”

“When the Phoenix came to Worcester in the spring of 1993, not everybody was rolling out red carpets,” Mindich says. “One high-culture dowager even called to ask point blank if we planned on writing about Worcester. We assured her we’d be covering Albany.”

Mindich says, however, that the welcome “on the street” was enthusiastic and the Worcester Phoenix quickly found its place among “under-represented subcultures, under-exposed musicians, and neglected arts organizations,” in other words, the usual demographic for alternative pubs.

The closure leaves Worcester Magazine as the surviving alternative weekly in the Worcester market.

The closure does not reflect overall weakness for the Boston-based Phoenix Media/Communications Group, Mindich says. A number of factors triggered the decision to close the Worcester Phoenix, including the general climate of economic uncertainty; the current industry-wide declines in ad revenues and the company’s lack of a radio property in the Worcester market.

The PM/CG has shifted its business strategy since launching Worcester in 1993. Over the past 21 months, PM/CG has made a major expansion into regional radio, purchasing four stations (Portland, Maine, WPHX 92.1 FM and WPHX 1220 AM; Manchester, NH, WFEX 92.1 FM; and Providence, RI, WWRX 103.7 FM). Those newer stations, together with PM/CG’s Boston station WFNX, 101.7 FM, operate as the FNX Radio Network. The FNX Network blankets the New England Coast, from Portland, Maine to Rhode Island.

The FNX Network encompasses the circulation areas of the PM/CG’s weekly Phoenix newspapers, in Boston, Providence, and Portland. With the acquisition of its additional broadcasting properties, PM/CG’s strategy is to promote content, programming, and advertising synergies among the newspapers, the radio network, and the New Media/Internet division.

Giant chains like Gannett, Dow Jones, and Knight Ridder are feeling pinched, Mindich says, citing a 14.8 percent decrease in revenues for March for the New York Time’s New England Newspaper Group, which owns the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Boston Globe.

“The staff in Worcester has published a superior paper,” Mindich says. “Sadly we have concluded that our future lies in focusing on our three other weekly newspapers in Boston, Providence, and Portland; maximizing synergy between the newspaper group and the FNX Radio Network; growing Stuff@Night magazine; and striking out in new directions with our New Media/Internet operation. We are also exploring the expansion of our newspaper division in areas within our broadcast signals.”

The company says it will attempt to place the 10-member Worcester staff at other PM/CG properties. The PM/CG, which is privately held, also operates Mass Web Printing Co. Inc., a commercial offset printer headquartered in Auburn, Mass., just outside of Worcester.

Other PM/CG properties include five companies, including TPI, under the banner of The People2People Group that run Web-based, audio text, radio and wireless services for personal advertisements in the US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia; and InstaTrac, a web-based, Massachusetts-oriented legislative research and tracking service.

Leave a Reply