Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom Communications, said that he will evaluate “in the next few weeks” whether the Los Angeles Register has a viable future as a daily. The Los Angeles Register was launched in April of this year in the Los Angeles, CA market, where it competes with other dailies including the Los Angeles Times. Kushner’s comments, which were made during an on-stage interview conducted by Portada publisher Marcos Baer during Portada’s 8th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference, are the first explicit references by Freedom Communications CEO about the possibility of discontinuing daily publication of the Los Angeles Register.
Kushner, however, does see a bright future for weekly publications. During the last several months Freedom Comunications has introduced several weekly publications including Hispanic weekly newspaper Unidos en el Sur de California. Kushner said that the weekly publications and Freedom’s two core newspapers The Orange County Register and The Press Enterprise, Riverside, CA, are the main contributors to what he claims is a “low single digit revenue growth rate” at Freedom Communications. While acknowledging challenges, Kushner praised newspapers and magazines as the only medium where consumers actually look for advertising and don’t neglect it or have technology to filter it (online or TV).
Before buying Freedom Communications with business partner Eric Spitz in July 2012, Kushner was a successful entrepreneur in the greeting cards business. “Everyone thought that printed greeting cards would disappear in 10 years, when in fact they have boomed,” Kushner said. He added that there may be some parallels between the newspaper and the greeting card business.
When asked about his view on charging readers for online content, Kushner noted that he does not see a sizable revenue stream in it and that most readers are not ready to pay for content online, with the exception of publications like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
Under Kushner’s and Spitz’s ownership Freedom Communications has been acquiring publications in markets it finds attractive (earlier this year it acquired The Press Enterprise from Belo Newspapers). When asked whether he is interested in acquiring publications in Southern California, the Freedom Communications Executive noted that his company’s nature is to be acquisitive, but he said there will be no inminent announcements of acquisitions. Kushner praised San Diego’s Hispanic newspaper Enlace, which is a unit of The San Diego Union Tribune.
The Freedom Executive also noted that there is a high correlation between voting and newspaper readership. And that newspapers play an important role in building community and creating an advanced political culture. Regarding the Hispanic newspaper sector, Kushner said that the features of Hispanic newspapers across the market are relatively uneven . He also spoke highly of the quality of many Mexican publications.