Fallout from MaineToday Media: What is MaineToday Digital?

Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2011 in Investigation

Fallout from MaineToday Media: What is MaineToday Digital?

by Gina Hamilton

PORTLAND — According to its president, Steve Galligan, the problems of MaineToday Media may not completely extend to MaineToday Digital, a new, separate organization based on web marketing. 

Galligan acknowledged that both MaineToday Media and MaineToday Digital are both being restructured by CRG Partners of Boston, a firm that focuses on media and other organizations in serious fiscal trouble. Galligan doesn't deny that there are still significant issues with MaineToday. "These guys, they're smart, and they're serious," he said of CRG. "They're restructuring the organization, and I'll tell you this, there will likely be a lot more changes before they're done." He said that CRG would make the ultimate decision about staffing, including the "appropriate size of the newsroom," as well as decisions about the future of the digital arm.

But Galligan also said that he expected a "streamlined" organization sometime before the end of the year, and said that he's confident that the resulting companies (or company, if MaineToday Digital merges with MaineToday Media, as Galligan predicts) will be much stronger. He hinted that MaineToday Media would erect a paywall next year, barring Internet users from accessing webpage content without paid subscription, and would supply much more external content, including blogs, other new media, and links to other existing news organizations.

Galligan said that, contrary to press reports from the Bangor Daily News, the board of MaineToday Media is supportive of the digital operation. 

MaineToday Media was purchased by Richard L. Connor in July 2009. MaineToday Media is Maine’s largest media company. It publishes three daily newspapers (The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel), and one weekly paper (The Coastal Journal). In addition, MaineToday owns and manages multiple websites including MaineToday.com, MaineWheels.com, MaineJobs.com, and ExploringMaine.com.

Although Galligan says that Connor is no longer part of MaineToday Digital, he is still listed as owner and CEO on its website. "We haven't seen him since he made his resignation announcement," Galligan said. He said that he has a four-person team, although there are several other names listed on the website. Angie Muhs, formerly an editor at the Portland Press Herald, serves as editor for the new venture.

Among the services MaineToday Digital offers, according to its website, are digital marketing, news, and social media assistance for businesses.

However, news from HM Capital, the private equity firm heavily invested in MaineToday Media, as well as the Times Leader group of papers in Pennsylvania, suggests that the future for newspapers ... and side businesses associated with them ... may not be so rosy.

In a statement, HM Capital said it will turn away from investing in media and focus exclusively on food and consumer products, which it calls "an area of core strength for the firm," while it labels media a "troubled area." The statement was published in Buyouts, a magazine that reports on the private equity industry.

A spokesman for HM Capital declined to comment specifically on what that would mean for MaineToday Media, the Pennsylvania papers, or the newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas, that Connor also had purchased with HM Capital funds. Jim David, a spokesman for HM Capital, said the statement means the firm will not make any "new media investments, but it will continue to work to maximize the value of its existing investments."

In the interests of full disclosure, Gina Hamilton is the former editor of the Coastal Journal, a MaineToday Media newspaper.

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