‘Bay Guardian’ Could Win Half of ‘S.F. Weekly’ Ad Revenue

By: E&P Staff

The San Francisco Bay Guardian could get the go-ahead to collect half of the S.F. Weekly’s advertising revenue — roughly $200,000 a month — depending on a decision by a San Francisco commissioner. The alt-paper The Stranger reported that decision is expected within the next few days.

In a hearing Thursday, the commissioner heard arguments on whether the Bay Guardian could collect the ad revenue of the Village Voice Media-owned S.F. Weekly.

This collection effort is the latest twist on a long-standing feud between the alternative weeklies that has been winding its way through the California court system. Initially, the Guardian sued the S.F. Weekly and its now parent company Village Voice Media under an Upton Sinclair-era California law intended to protect companies from so-called predatory pricing in order to drive a competitor out of business. The Guardian claimed that the S.F. Weekly had been under-selling its advertising at a loss.

A jury found in favor of the Guardian, awarding the publisher damages that were trebled to $21 million. The S.F. Weekly and its parent company are appealing the case, alleging that the jury got it all wrong — newspapers everywhere have been plagued with declining advertising revenue and the Bay Area is a particularly competitive media market.

As the case works its way through appeals, the Guardian is able to collect its judgment. In January, it seized two S.F. Weekly delivery trucks and rent from tenants subleasing from the S.F. Weekly. In late January, the Guardian filed the motion to collect half of the S.F. Weekly’s monthly advertising revenue.

S.F. Weekly/Village Voice Media could have purchased a bond at $30 million to freeze the collections process. Executives with the company said that cost of the bond was onerous, and that they are confident they will be the ultimate victor in court.

E&P reports on this dispute between the alternative papers in its February print edition, which arrives this week.

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