New York Times Co. Close to Selling Regional Media Group

Halifax Media Group will take over the 16 newspapers

The New York Times Company announced today that it is in “advanced discussions” to sell its Regional Media Group of newspapers to the Halifax Media Group, confirming earlier rumors that a sale was near completion.

Blogger Jim Romenesko first reported this morning that the Halifax Media Group’s website had listed the Regional Media Group’s 16 newspapers—including the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla., and the Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.—as its own. The website was taken down shortly thereafter.

According to New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, the Regional Media Group accounted for 11 percent of the Times Company’s $2.4 billion in revenue in 2010. However, ad revenue at the Regional Media Group has been steadily declining in recent years, falling 30.2 percent from 2008 to 2009 to $193 million, and falling an additional 8.2 percent in 2010 to $177 million.

News of the sale comes just four days after the Times Company unexpectedly announced that CEO Janet Robinson would be stepping down from her job at the end of the year, with no successor named. In a statement, director of the board Ellen Marram emphasized the company’s need for “prudent fiscal management, a strong focus on ongoing digital initiatives, and pursuit of new growth opportunities.”

The sale of the Regional Media Group “absolutely fits” with Robinson’s departure, according to Newsonomics’ Ken Doctor, who writes that the Times “is no longer a newspaper company, with a strong national newspaper, a Boston cousin in the Globe and regional newspaper interests,” but “a global news company whose future is mostly digital.”

“You can pay a Times reporter to write a story that can reach some of the Times’ 50 million global monthly unique visitors, three-fifths of them in the U.S.,” explains Doctor. “Or you can pay a Gainesville or Tuscaloosa reporter a little less to write a story that can reach a hundredth of that total . . . The regional news companies, important as they are to their communities, have been but a business distraction.”