Florida's most read newspaper has swallowed the state's print circulation runner-up (at least according to 2014 numbers). The Tampa Bay Times announced today that it has acquired cross-region rival The Tampa Tribune. Publication of the Tribune has stopped immediately, and while some staff will be absorbed, at least 100 layoffs are expected as a result of the purchase.
The Times boasts that it will now be the fifth largest newspaper in the country by Sunday circulation (although, that doesn't take into account consumers who have subscribed to both papers).
The Tampa Bay Times, known until 2012 as The St. Petersburg Times, once focused solely on Pinellas County. Meanwhile, the Tribune was once the de facto paper of Hillsborough County, across the bay. Beginning in the '80s, though, each paper began aggressively moving onto the other's turf and never let up.
Compare that to the history of The Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In the '90s and early '00s, those papers both attempted to cross over county lines. In fact, it was during that time the Sun-Sentinel rechristened itself from the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Now, those papers have since reverted to humbly staying in their own lanes for the most part.
So residents of the Tampa Bay metro area have had a choice for nearly 29 years between local papers, but that increasingly unique situation no longer makes sense in today's still struggling media landscape.
The signs of a merger had been on the wall for some time.
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The Times, which is owned by the non-profit Poynter Institute, meanwhile recently sold its headquarters for an undisclosed sum. It still has a 15-year lease to stay in the building, but the real estate sale freed up the money necessary to buy the Tribune.
Monetary specifics of the sale were not disclosed.
"It's fair to say we've seen this day coming for a very long time," Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash. "We are committed to being Florida's Best Newspaper to all of our readers and advertisers."