Firm acquires 2 area newspapers

Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group said Tuesday that it has bought the Huntersville Herald and Mountain Island Monitor newspapers, closing a strategic ring around Charlotte for suburban readers.

In all, the company will distribute 106,000 newspapers in Mecklenburg under its various titles, which include the Charlotte Weekly, launched seven years ago in south Charlotte.

On Friday, the company will also launch a 15,000-paper edition called the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly. It also publishes the Union County Weekly, which distributes 19,000 copies.

Alain Lillie, CEO for the company, said the 29,000-circulation Huntersville Herald, which will be renamed the Weekly Herald, will become a free publication like the rest and will add about 5,000 copies in the Davidson area in coming weeks. Mountain Island Monitor, a monthly, distributes 14,000 copies, he said.

About 80 percent of the company's papers are delivered to homes and the rest are put on news racks, he said.

Price of the acquisition was not made public. Negotiations for the Huntersville and Mountain Island publications began about a year ago, Lillie said. Tucker Mitchell, who founded the Huntersville and Mountain Island papers, will remain as managing editor of both.

This week, the Tampa-based alternative newspaper publisher Creative Loafing Inc. – which distributes about 50,000 papers through its Charlotte edition – announced it was seeking bankruptcy protection. And in September, the Rhinoceros Times announced it was discontinuing its free-distribution weekly and focusing strictly on digital delivery in Charlotte amid rising costs and declining advertising.

Despite a historic downturn in the ad market, Lillie said free-distribution community newspapers are doing well. “Community news sells ... It's the pay model that's hurting; the free model is working just fine.”