Local News: CherryRoad Media Acquires Carroll County Newspapers (3/3/22)

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Carroll County Newspapers has a new owner.

The Berryville-based news agency, publisher of Carroll County News, Lovely County Citizen and Ozark Mountain Trader, as well as Eureka Springs Visitor and Currents magazine, has been acquired by CherryRoad Media Inc., as part of an agreement with the Missouri-based company. Rust Communications involving newspapers in two states.

In a press release announcing the sale, CherryRoad CEO Jeremy Gulban said it was his way of giving back to local communities “by supporting the media houses that add so much value to our daily lives but suffer from the weight of the digital age by losing subscriptions.”

Along with the Carroll County newspapers, CherryRoad now owns the Salem News, the Villager Journal in Cherokee Village, and the Clay County Times-Democrat in Piggott, in addition to newspapers in Cassville, Marshall, Monett, and Thayer, Mo.

“We are very excited to be working with a great group of people to serve these communities in Arkansas and Missouri in the future,” Gulban said. “We plan to continue to focus on local news and offer additional digital solutions to complement print newspapers. I want to thank the Rust family for working with us to find a good place for these important community posts.

This latest round of acquisitions brings CherryRoad Media‘s total number of publications to 63 in seven states, including nine in Arkansas.

In June 2021, the company purchased the Mountaineer Echo from Flippin, the Marshall Mountain Wave, the Pocahontas Star Herald, and the Clay County Courier from Corning.

Gulban, 46, has no background in newspapers or publishing – his father, Michael, started CherryRoad Technologies, which provides software and cloud services to local government entities and state agencies across the country in 1983 – but he thinks spreading the news is important, especially at the local level.

“There are lots of other places where people can get national news or even state-level news,” Gulban said Friday, Feb. 25, in an interview with Carroll County News. “What we really want to focus on is local community news. And that’s really why this paper is needed.

Carroll County Newspapers editor and general manager Scott Loftis said Gulban’s philosophy on local news matches his own.

“Our goal has always been for our newspapers to include 100 percent local content, and we’ve never had a hard time filling the newspaper with things that are important to people here in Carroll County,” Loftis said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work for Rust Communications and I’m thrilled that CherryRoad brings new ideas and a fresh perspective.”

Gulban said CherryRoad’s foray into community news ownership was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“We’ve been in business since the early 1980s as a technology company. that’s really where our roots are,” Gulban said. “Beginning in 2020 and in the summer and fall of 2020, we made the decision to consider going into the local newspaper business because we felt there was an opportunity to bring our skills technology in the newspaper industry – especially the smaller aspects of the industry.”

CherryRoad’s first purchase was the Cook County News Herald in Grand Marais, Minnesota last year.

“It worked really well and we ended up growing four newspapers there in Arkansas in the spring of last year,” Gulban said. “Things really took off from there.”

In September, CherryRoad acquired 20 newspapers from the Gannett Company, including its first titles in Arkansas.

“Then this opportunity came up over the last two months,” Gulban said, “and we thought it was a good fit because it aligns with the other locations we have there in the market. ‘Arkansas.”

Rust Communications acquired the Berryville Star-Progress and the Eureka Springs Times-Echo—which, along with the Green Forest Tribune, would become Carroll County News—in 1997 as part of a nine-newspaper deal with USMedia Group.

The sale to CherryRoad comes two months after the death of Rust co-chairman Rex Dearmont Rust, a former financier who ran the second-generation company with his brother, Jon K. Rust, since 2001.

“Jeremy and CherryRoad’s commitment to employees, technology innovation and small markets is impressive,” said Jon Rust. “We are thrilled to connect them and their passion for news to a large group of employees and cities.”

Prior to this sale, Rust Communications owned more than 40 newspapers in eight states, in addition to numerous magazines and websites. Rust also owns a minority stake in 17 radio stations.

Gulban said CherryRoad’s experience in the world of technology will enable it to upgrade operations in the communities it serves, while empowering local staff to deliver local information, both in print and digital.

“The concept of newscasting has been around forever and always will be,” Gulban said. “It’s about bringing the technology to this and continuing this tradition in all future forms. Because technology moves so fast, we probably can’t predict what things are going to be like five years from now. We also want to continue delivering a print newspaper for the foreseeable future, as we know there are a lot of people in the community who really want to get the news that way.

In addition to continuing to print, CherryRoad hopes to attract new users through the use of new digital methods, including improved websites, newsletters and real-time updates.

“We’re going to be looking to do other types of online offerings, whether it’s podcasts or video podcasts or streaming-type opportunities on websites,” Gulban said. “We’re going to be looking to try to make the newspaper more of the center of events in the community by sponsoring certain events or hosting certain events, whether they’re virtual or physical, on-site events.”

These plans extend not only to the newspaper, but also to the community as a whole.

“We want to engage with local businesses to help them not only with traditional advertising,” Gulban said, “but also with digital advertising, with improving their websites and online presence and any other technology we can to help them make their businesses more successful.”

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