Pennsylvania Publisher Takes on the Big Apple
In October, Peter D. Barbey, president and CEO of the Reading Eagle Co., acquired the Village Voice through his personal investment company. Barbey’s family has owned and operated newspapers in the Reading, Pennsylvania, area for eight generations, since 1796. His great-grandfather, John Barbey, established what is today the VF Corporation, a publicly traded apparel company in which Barbey owns a significant interest. The Reading Eagle Co. owns the daily Reading Eagle as well as the South Schuylkill News, WEEU Radio, REP Commercial Printing and Pretzel City Productions.
Founded in 1868 as the daily English companion to the Reading Adler, the family’s German language weekly newspaper, the Reading Eagle provides local and regional news coverage to Berks County and surrounding communities. In March 2015, the Reading Eagle was awarded top honors for the third straight year in the Pennsylvania News Media Association’s Keystone Press Awards.
DV&M recently asked Barbey about his decision to buy the Village Voice, regarded as the first alternative newspaper in the country.
After years of running a traditional daily newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania, why the Village Voice?
It would not be overstating things to say that in New York, and for generations of readers in other places as well, the Village Voice has an iconic journalistic brand. It has a had a well-defined community role in the New York community, the arts and cultural community and the progressive community. I think we do community well. As a reader, I have had a long history with the paper and want it to thrive.
In addition to returning the Village Voice to journalistic excellence, how do you plan to make it a business success?
As we did with the Reading Eagle, I plan to revitalize the Voice to its traditional position as an essential part and partner of the communities it serves.
Is there a specific advertising niche that alternative newspapers can serve?
Community advertising, promotion and branding opportunities that match the demographic and the point of view of the paper, among other niches.
Alternatively is there a paid content model for the Village Voice?
Possibly. I don't see that opportunity emerging yet, however.
Is the future of the Village Voice in print or online?
Both. It will be continue to be distributed free in print in the New York City area. I upped the circulation in the first week and that worked well. We plan to increase it to over 100,000 copies. The majority of the web traffic is from out of the tri-city area. The Voice has a national and international audience. Print and digital serve the Voice very well.
Would you consider additional acquisitions in the New York market?
Possibly. But I am concentrating on the Voice for now.
How will you divide your time between Reading and New York?
As needed. The two are quite close.
Mets or Yankees?
Yankees. I was born and raised in Boston, raised as a Red Sox fan, and I had the usual obsession with Yankees versus Red Sox games. But, as we all know, obsession so very often evolves into fascination and admiration, heck, even a kind of love.