Weekly newspaper venture relocating to Newark, N.J. Our World News, targeting black readers, leaving city

Publishing

November 13, 1997|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

The publisher of a new national newspaper targeting middle-class black readers said yesterday that the venture, which expects to publish its first issue early next year, will shift its headquarters to Newark, N.J., from Baltimore by January.

Donald L. Miller, chief executive officer and publisher of Our World News, said the paper decided to relocate because it found a more accommodating business climate in the Garden State. Also, Newark is within the newspaper's first target market, the northern New Jersey-New York City region.

"The business climate here was not as accommodating as we would have liked it to be," said Miller, a former vice president of employee relations with Dow Jones & Co. Inc., the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

He declined to be specific, other than to say the venture found it difficult to interest Maryland-based investors.

"Newark is a lot more attractive and appealing. It is an American city in the midst of an exciting renaissance. It is really a better venue for us and will be a smart move," he added.

The northern New Jersey-New York region has one of the largest concentrations of middle-class black households on the East Coast. Miller said that about 20 percent of the region's households are black, earning $50,000 or more annually -- the paper's target subscribers.

In comparison, only about 3 percent of Baltimore's households fit that profile. Nationwide, about 1.2 million African-American households make $50,000 or more annually.

From the New Jersey-New York readership base, Our World News plans to expand readership in the greater Washington, D.C., area, where about 9 percent of households are black and earning $50,000 or more.

The venture is the first effort since the mid-1980s to publish a national weekly paper targeting the black readership niche.

The last effort was the National Leader, based in Philadelphia, which lasted from May 1982 until February 1984, when it folded.

"It's been a tough nut to pull together, but it is going to happen because of two things: persistence and determination," said Miller.

Newspaper industry analysts note that niche-oriented national newspapers have faced difficulty in the past attracting advertisers and readers.

"Unless you are offering your readers something better than what they are already getting or something really new, you're going to face a lot of difficulty," said John Morton, a media industry analyst with Silver Spring-based Morton Research.

But Morton thinks that Our World News may have a shot at success because it has focused on attracting a well-defined readership.

"They have targeted an audience which rightly or wrongly believes the mainstream press does not address their concerns," he said.

Also, the paper has wisely side-stepped a start-up newspaper's most significant drain on capital: printing and distribution equipment, Morton said.

The venture has struck an agreement with Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today and 89 local dailies, to print the weekly and distribute it through its national network of printing plants, said Miller.

Miller said the agreement significantly lowered start-up financing needs.

Our World News LLC, the parent company of the newspaper, has raised about $4.5 million in start-up money from private investors and is seeking another $2 million for the roll-out of the newspaper, said Miller.

He said investors include the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit foundation in Arlington, Va., that promotes academic and professional study and debate on free press issues and journalism.

"We are well on our way to wrapping up the equity commitments we think we will need," said Miller. "We are moving into the launch phase."

It is expected the weekly newspaper will be mailed to subscribers on Thursdays. Plans also call for distribution to newsstands and other selected retail outlets.

Initially, there will be newsroom staff of 20, primarily covering the Northeast corridor. Later the focus will broaden, Miller said.

"This is not going to be a newspaper about blacks, but a newspaper that provides the black perspective from a national focus. There is nowhere you can get that now," he said.

The venture projects circulation of about 100,000 in the first year, and 400,000 by the end of five years.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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