ECM Publishers, the community newspaper chain former Gov. Elmer L. Andersen founded, will acquire the rival Minnesota Sun Newspapers, ECM and Sun owner American Community Newspapers announced Monday afternoon.
ECM has 15 weekly papers and six shoppers, while Sun has 32 weeklies and two shoppers. Sun also claims the bigger weekly circulation: 357,000 to 155,000. However, Sun has been in trouble ever since former ACN CEO Gene Carr bet big on exploding suburban real estate markets, only to leave shrapnel in many a journalist. ACN toppled into bankruptcy, and has since closed or combining myraid editions. The reorganized ACN II recently sold its Columbus, Ohio newspapers, leaving only Dallas and Washington, D.C. clusters.
ECM has been much more conservatively managed and has made fewer pratfalls adapting to the still-tough online space, where they claim 1 million monthly page views compared to 461,000 for Sun. For a time, Sun banked heavily on videos of reporters woodenly reading scripts to a desktop cam, often generating a few dozen views.
The papers technically announced a letter of intent, hoping to sign an agreement by year’s end. The chains compete in a couple of places (you can see an ECM list here and ACN here). While both sides mention staff mergers, there’s no talk yet about whether papers or headcount would be cut. More as I get it.