'Business Ledger,' Chesapeake team up Financial monthly wanted to expand

November 08, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Publishers of the Harford Business Ledger have proved that if you create a product that is targeted to the right market, then a company can prosper during tough economic times.

"We've been extremely fortunate with our publication," said Philip K. Smith, who, along with Robert W. Carll publishes the tabloid-size monthly financial newspaper that focuses on county business news.

"Bob and I felt we had a good idea and plan, but the paper was accepted by the business community much faster than we anticipated."

Last week the co-publishers announced that the Ledger had entered into a partnership with Chesapeake Publishing Corp. of Cecil County which created the Chesapeake Business Ledgers.

"This partnership will provide the base for us to expand in the business-publication field and allow us to build on the success of the Harford Business Ledger," said Tom Bradlee, president of Chesapeake Publishing.

Growth was among the top priorities for Mr. Smith and Mr. Carll.

"It was our desire to expand our operation into other areas and Cecil County seemed like a logical choice," said Mr. Smith.

"Bob and I began exploring opportunities in that county last spring. It was then we found out the they [Chesapeake] were planning to bring out a similar publication.

"When they caught wind of our intentions, they hurriedly pushed their publication date up a couple of months to June and let us know . . . we weren't welcome.

Rather than get into a adversarial mode, we decided to back off. They were the established paper in Cecil County and we felt that if we tried to [introduce] an independent publication the advertising support might not materialize.

"In further discussions with them, we found out their decision to produce a similar publication was because they liked what we were doing. We also found them receptive to a possible merger," Mr. Smith said.

A cash settlement was reached with Mr. Smith and Mr. Carll for The Ledger. However, terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The Ledger will continue to publish monthly as it has throughout its existence. Mr. Smith and Mr. Carll will maintain an equity interest and will become co-publishers of both newspapers.

"This merger fulfills a dream of ours to take our initial idea to other areas within Maryland," said Mr. Smith, who previously worked 20 years with The Aegis before leaving in 1986 to start a publication known as Ad Vantage, a direct-mail advertising circular, which he sold after two years.

"Bob and I will be responsible for selecting new areas of publication and establishing ad rates which . . . must be structured to each specific area. One day other business communities will enjoy the quality of coverage now provided to Harford County."

Asked about personnel changes Mr. Smith replied, "It's too early to contemplate staff changes, if any. Right now our main concern is producing the next issue of both publications. We are satisfied with the staff at the Ledger and Chesapeake's staff is in place."

The first issue of the Harford Business Ledger in October 1989 had 24 pages. It has grown to an average of 80 pages, with November's edition containing 100 pages. It is mailed directly to 7,800 subscribers -- mostly business owners, managers and professionals in Harford. Newsstand sales average about 500 at $1.25 a copy.

Chesapeake owns 34 newspapers in Maryland, including the Cecil Whig (Elkton), Kent County News (Chestertown), Star Democrat (Easton), Enterprise (Lexington Park) and the Maryland Independent (Waldorf). The company also publishes the historic Virginia Gazette, a 256-year-old paper covering greater Williamsburg, Va., as well as the Chronicle and Leader in Sussex County, Del.

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