Founded by Jack Ryan, a former politician turned newspaper chief executive officer, the company focuses on bringing hyperlocal news to the digital world while still delivering its content in print. Growing up in Chicago, Ryan said he saw how “ineffective” news organizations were at gathering and organizing the news: “One, I felt we could do a better, more useful job, and two we could deliver the news to consumers in more cost-efficient ways.”
22nd Century Media papers are delivered to nearly 200,000 homes and 400,000 readers. All weeklies, they are published every Thursday and delivered for free while an annual online subscription for $39 allows access to all the titles in the zone in which they reside. Memberships include rewards, such as cooking demonstrations and wine tasting events.
Last August, the company expanded to the West Coast, acquiring the Malibu (Calif.) Surfside News. The free weekly paper is published every Wednesday and will soon also have a paywall. Ryan’s goal is to see if his model will work outside of Chicago.
Each paper operates with an editor, as assistant editor, a team of freelancers and its own sales force. According to chief events officer Heather Warthen, the papers have three sections: sports, news, and life and arts, but readers won’t find highlights from the most recent Chicago Bulls basketball game on their pages. She said their news has to have an “extremely strict hyperlocal aspect.”
In addition, 22nd Century Media is involved with the events business. After hosting several smaller events in the past, the company put on its first expo in May: Lady, a women’s expo with 50 vendors and an estimated 5,000 attendees. Two more expos have also been planned: Back on the Bus, a back to school expo in August, and Active Aging, an expo for adults age 50 and older set for September.
“The local provider will be the most useful going forward,” Ryan said. By continuing to offer print along with digital, he has only seen his circulation and revenue numbers increase. In the publishing industry, “it’s tough to be a single provider of media,” he said.
Warthen said, “I’m confident we will pass (our competitors). What makes us stand out is our smart control growth. We didn’t launch all our papers at the same time.”
For more information, visit 22ndcenturymedia.com.