Gulf Coast Newspapers, a family of five newspapers based in Baldwin County, changed hands recently and is now owned by OPC News out of South Carolina.
The sale closed July 29 and means OPC now owns The Baldwin Times, The Courier (Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort), The Foley Onlooker, The Independent (Robertsdale, Loxley) and The Islander (Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Ft. Morgan). The papers were owned for the past 14 years by Crescent Publishing Company. Crescent is also based out of South Carolina.
According to reports published on the GCN website after the purchase, OPC News is family-owned, with three members of the Osteen family running the show – Graham, Kyle and Jack. They also have holdings in Osteen Publishing Company, a Sumter, S.C. newspaper that’s been family-owned for more than 100 years.
“Baldwin County is a great area with an audience that traditionally loves to read newspapers. Along with the staff, we will continue to build on the impressive efforts at Gulf Coast Newspapers. We believe in the future of smaller community news organizations,” the brothers said in a statement.
While there was no disclosure as to why Crescent was ready to sell GCN, or specifically why OPC was looking in this market, overall the weekly newspaper market has been stable over the past several years and many believe such newspapers are the future of print journalism in the United States.
During the annual Association of Alternative Newspapers convention in Nashville in July, media buyer David Crawford of Kantar Media said the general doom and gloom about print media as a whole is mostly the echoes from daily newspapers that are struggling to survive with larger overhead and lost revenue streams.
Crawford pointed out that while dailies continue to lose readership and revenue, weeklies across the country have performed much better. In fact, he said that over the past decade, community weeklies and alt weeklies have lost less than 1 percent of their readership. He said more and more advertisers are finding them to be solid places to reach quality readership.
During the ownership change it was announced Sudie Gambrell, who has served as publisher for GCN will continue in that role under OPC. She will report to Larry Miller, CEO of OPC News and Osteen Publishing Company. He is based out of South Carolina. The company has holdings in Florida, New Mexico, Alabama and South Carolina.
Gambrell said there are no expected changes in staffing at the papers, and in fact she is filling some vacant positions. She said the new owners are excited about the area and have already shown support for their new acquisitions.
“What I’m very happy about is that they believe in newspapers and publishing,” Gambrell said. “They immediately fell in love with Baldwin County and they are please with the papers and want to offer their support. At this time it’s business as usual.”
The Baldwin Times was established in 1890 and The Courier started printing in 1894. The Onlooker started publishing in 1907. The Independent and Islander began publishing in 1976 and 1977 respectively.
Also included in the sale was the GCN website, which the company claims surpassed annualized audience traffic of 4.4 million unique visitors and 10 million pageviews last month.