The Daily Gazette is launching an alternative weekly newspaper in partnership with Proctors and Albany-based web company Overit that will focus on arts and entertainment in the Capital Region.
The weekly, to be named “The Alt,” will cover stories in Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Troy that the newspapers in the region, like The Gazette and The Times Union, aren’t touching, said Gazette President and Publisher John DeAugustine.
At the same time, DeAugustine said he doesn’t believe The Alt will directly compete with the other newspapers in the area. Rather, it will feature stories that push the boundaries with quirky topics and strong opinions.
“This will truly be an arts and entertainment alternative news publication,” he said. “We will go after controversial topics in the region. We’re not going to shy away from topics that may be uncomfortable for others. If they had a porn expo at the TU Center, we would cover it, while the Gazette would probably pass on it.”
The Alt will be separate from The Gazette. The Gazette is investing 40 percent into the alternative weekly, with Proctors and Overit pitching in 30 percent. The total cash investment is about $400,000 to start.
The three partners, under an LLC, plan to hire one editor, one digital editor and one reporter along with a couple of sales people and promoters (with one promoter in each county: Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady).
The Gazette will print about 25,000 copies of The Alt each week, which would be distributed to 300 locations in the four counties. It will be free.
But the energy would not be put into the print product. The focus would be building a high-quality website and mobile website, by Overit, which would allow the Alt staff to experiment with calendars, social media and video.
“We really feel there is a lack on the web side of things locally,” said Dan Dinsmore, founder and CEO of Overit. “The area has a lot to offer, especially on the entertainment and creative side of things. Whether that’s music or acting, whatever it may be. We look forward to being a contributor and being a part of it.”
Overit is also working on redesigning The Gazette’s website, which is expected to launch in the fall. Dinsmore said the two websites would not be similar.
The calendar in The Alt would include a range of things happening throughout the region, including art shows, concerts and events, DeAugustine said.
“We’re hard set at having the greatest calendar in the country,” he said. “There are some good examples out there but when you partner with a team like Overit you expect to have the very best.”
Proctors CEO Philip Morris said the Capital Region is the largest metropolitan area without an alternative weekly following the downfall of Metroland in Albany.
Morris said he is looking for The Alt to tie the four counties together and raise awareness about what’s happening in the region.
“There is no good central source for the whole region,” he said. “The papers try to do it but they don’t cover the whole region.”
Morris said he believes stories in the weekly newspaper will focus on topics such as the changing face of employment and industry, the activity of downtowns and social rights and transparency.
Dinsmore also said The Alt would also be big on stories about transparency.
The partners all stressed that specific stories envisioned for The Alt are unclear until an editor is hired. The group is looking to fill positions next month and launch the newspaper in the fall.
Morris said the goal is for the partners to be owners, not publishers.
“We will hire someone who has the ability to chase the correct stories and determine if they’re meaningful and important,” DeAugustine said. “We won’t write a story just for the shock value. We won’t prohibit the editor from covering meaningful stuff because it may be politically incorrect. We plan on taking some very strong stands.”
The Alt staff would work out of offices at Proctors in downtown Schenectady, Morris said. He said the theater’s finance officer would manage the LLC’s finances.
DeAugustine said The Alt would be targeted toward specific advertisers and that he is anticipating a generous source of advertising revenue. He is projecting that the newspaper would turn a profit by the end of its first year.
“The Alt has to be a very targeted publication that lives in an extremely specific space that The Gazette does not go after,” he said. “Of course, we’ll share advertisers, like Proctors. But that doesn’t make them a direct competitor. We’ll get at a void that is huge in this market.”
DeAugustine considered buying Metroland but said he ultimately decided against it because the publication did not have a direct relationship to The Gazette’s newspaper.
Last year Metroland’s offices in Albany were seized for back taxes. The weekly, which was first published in 1978, was put up for sale with no takers.
When asked how The Alt would differ from Metroland, DeAugustine said they would invest heavily in digital and have financial stability, with the Gazette, Proctors and Overit team.
“We have an understanding of marketing and advertising,” he said. “Great publications are good at figuring out how to drive results for their advertisers. The team at the Gazette looks at that everyday. That’s vastly different than how Metroland went to market.”
Dinsmore said he grew up with Metroland and that it was great for what it was at the time but that The Alt would take alternative content to the next level.
“This particular group came together a few months after Metroland closed their doors, or got their doors closed,” said Michelle Dinsmore, vice president of Overit. “We just came together because of having that common interest. We’re excited about being in a partnership and bringing [an alternative weekly] back to the area.”
DeAugustine said he believes investing in The Alt would help to continue to grow The Gazette, and that the Gazette’s owners agree.
“It’s part of our mission to continue to be a news agency in this region,” he said. “To do that and to continue to grow we need to find other areas to bolster our net income and continue to grow our revenue.”