As talks between the union representing striking Chronicle Herald workers and management broke down Monday, speculation is growing that Irving owned Brunswick News is poised to buy the Halifax newspaper.
Brunswick News operates the three major daily newspapers in New Brunswick and over a dozen French and English language weeklies throughout the province.
Jacques Poitras is a CBC journalist and the author of the book Irving vs. Irving. He recently wrote an article entitled: Eight Reasons Why an Irving Buyout of the Chronicle-Herald Makes Sense. It was published on the website medium.com.
On Monday, he spoke to CBC Maritime Noon host Norma Lee MacLeod about what would make the Chronicle Herald so attractive to Brunswick News. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.
Norma Lee MacLeod: You are speculating that the Irvings may want the Chronicle Herald, what's the business case for that?
Jacques Poitras: The main business case is flyer distribution. A lot is said about the Irving ownership and how the newspapers cover the Irving businesses, but when they did those weekly acquisitions, in 2002-2003, what they were really going for from a business point of view, was the flyer markets … that is big money for the newspaper business. It's a bit less these days with digital advertising, but it's still a big part of the business model.
So, if you think about an idea where they would add the Herald's distribution throughout Nova Scotia, and particularly metro Halifax, that would be a big boost for them in terms of selling that flyer distribution to the advertisers who want those flyers out there ... If they were to acquire the Herald, with all those centralized functions, the editing, the human resources, and even the printing of the paper, they could conceivably acquire the Herald, run it at a much lower cost than it's run now and gain that revenue from flyers.
The last thing is, the Irving papers are behind what we call a hard paywall, so you have to subscribe to see the papers online and if they were to fold the Herald into that hard paywall … there would be another revenue opportunity for them again with not a huge cost added to their operations.
Norma Lee MacLeod: Has Brunswick News ever gone after the Herald in the past?
Jacques Poitras: I did confirm from a retired publisher with the Telegraph Journal, Jonathan Franklin, that they had made an approach to the Dennis family around 2002, he didn't recall the exact date, but it was when all the weeklies were being pulled into Brunswick News and the family wasn't interested in selling at the time. So there's been at least one confirmed, on the record approach. There have been rumours for years well before that and since then, they've been looking at it.
The head of CWA Canada, the union representing the workers, told me on the weekend that the Herald has said this is not something that is in the offing, but he's not convinced that's true. It is just speculation, but you can see on all these points about the business case why it would make a lot of sense.