So, Jeremy Halbreich, what is that you do?
I’m Chairman & CEO at AIM Media Management LLC. I founded the company seven years ago and today we own and operate local community newspapers, magazines and web sites in three geographic locations: Texas, Indiana and Ohio, which includes one small daily in West Virginia.
What does a typical AIM daily look like? What sort of market does it serve, what kind of newsgathering resources does it have, where would you put it in the print-to-digital continuum?
We focus on small- to medium-size communities in places like McAllen, Texas, Columbus, Indiana, and Lima, Ohio, and we look to cluster geographically to take advantage of regional operating efficiencies. This allows us to devote resources to news and editorial. In all cases, we take great pride in offering complete and comprehensive local news packages to our readers both in print and digital. Since we are private and with what we believe is a unique operating model, we believe we are able to allocate more to our news operations than typical newspapers our size. This also includes periodic enterprise projects of importance to our local communities such as immigration in the Rio Grande Valley and the opioid epidemic in southern Indiana and western Ohio.
AIM subsidaries have been active buyers in the recent past. What do you look for in a potential acquistion?
We believe strongly in the future of newspapers in both print and digital so are always on the look for acquisitions as sensible add-ons to our current geographies. In addition, we are open to establishing new geographies if the local enterprise is of a certain size or larger. And finally, both Rick Starks—my longtime associate and partner—have deep experience with metro newspapers so we are always open to those opportunities.
You started your newspaper career sort of being thrown in the deep end of the pool at The Dallas Morning News when it was in an intense old-fashioned newspaper war with The Dallas Times Herald. You were the first non-family member in the executive manangement training program, becoming the Morning News president and GM. What were the big early lessons for you from those years?
We were very fortunate to be in Dallas during those years. The unique circumstances at The Dallas Morning News allowed us to take a very entrepreneurial, highly strategic and locally-focused approach to our market and against our competition. These attributes, combined with strong leadership and intense discipline in all our execution, secured to our successes. These elements are more important today in our businesses than they were the 20-plus years ago.
And when you first became a newspaper owner in 1998 with American Consolidated Media, did that experience come with new lessons or insights into the industry?
We could see the business beginning to change—the beginning of the end of what we now affectionately call the Golden Age of Newspapering that began in the early 1980 and pretty much continued until the Great Recession of 2008-2009. This in turn required a change in our business models and strategies. We believe this applies to newspapers of all sizes and shapes.
Let's talk about the merger of Inland and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. You were on the working team that planned the merger. What advantages did you see forming this new, merged association?
First, both Inland and SNPA are very likeminded organizations based traditionally on serving small and medium sized members typically owned by family or small groups. As our industry has changed over the past 10-plus years with the migration to larger groups and fewer family owners, both associations recognized the need to be more outward focused to educate, inform and promote the value and importance of local journalism. The merger will strengthen this important mission along with continuing the role each association has played in sharing best practices, networking, industry specific education and optimizing all aspects of newspaper operations.
You are the current Inland Press Foundation president. Tell us what the status of the Foundation will be after the merger on October 1.
Effective with the merger date, both the Inland Press Foundation and the SNPA Foundation will remain independent for the foreseeable future. Each Foundation has committed to funding the new, merged association for a minimum of five years and both foundations are extremely excited, supportive and pleased with this new direction. We elected to take this approach since there are significant complexities involved in merging two, existing foundations and also in deference to the history and heritage of each foundation.
Finally, being a buyer of newspaper properties certainly implies an optimistic view of the industry. Why are you bullish on the newspaper business?
The work performed each and every day by newspaper organizations across the US is critical to the functioning of our democracy. There is no replacement or substitute for well-informed citizenry and the myriad of benefits it brings to our society. It is worth fighting and fighting hard to preserve the health and welfare of our businesses and the highest levels of objective, fact-based journalism. And for many of us, ours is also an exciting and always fun and challenging business. The work performed each and every day by newspaper organizations across the US is critical to the functioning of our democracy. There is no replacement or substitute for well-informed citizenry and the myriad of benefits it brings to our society. It is worth fighting and fighting hard to preserve the health and welfare of our businesses and the highest levels of objective, fact-based journalism.
And for many of us, ours is also an
exciting and always fun and challenging business.