Newspaper chain expanding in Fishers

Current Publishing LLC is preparing for its fourth expansion since launching in Hamilton County in October 2006.

The publisher of tabloid-sized weekly community newspapers in Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville is launching a paper in Fishers on Jan. 25.

Current in Fishers, like the company’s other three publications, will be delivered free of charge by mail to residents’ homes every Tuesday. The newspaper will be sent to 27,516 Fishers homes, giving it 100 percent market saturation, said co-founder Brian Kelly.

“We continue to grow where our advertisers tell us they want to be,” Kelly said. “It’s like the recession never happened here. We continue to grow, and we expect similar success in Fishers.”

Kelly, who co-founded the publishing company in 2006 with Steve Greenberg, declined to share specifics of the firm’s financial results. But he said the company grew year-over-year revenue 50 percent in 2008, 70 percent in 2009 and 41 percent in 2010. Greenberg calls the papers’ results so far this month compared to last January “mind-blowing.” Several ad spots, including a strip on the front page of all four publications, are sold out for all of 2011, Greenberg said.

Current is giving away its newspapers, but it certainly isn’t giving away its ad space. A full page ad will cost $3,585 in Current in Fishers, a half page costs $1,835, and a quarter-page ad costs $985, with discounts for frequency. The prices in the Carmel and Noblesville publications are similar to those in the Fishers publication, and Current in Westfield is slightly less expensive.

The company’s growth comes as newspapers nationwide are losing readers to myriad sources on the Internet and losing ad dollars to changing reader habits and the swooning economy.

“For a newspaper [chain] to grow at this rate these days is pretty amazing,” said Jim Brown, executive associate dean emeritus at the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI. “While some smaller community newspapers are doing better than the bigger papers, very few papers are showing this kind of growth.”

Brown said a tight, local news focus might be the reason the Current publications are growing.

“With a horrendous number of news sources available online, covering local news that no other outlet is covering is the one thing these papers have to stay strong,” Brown said.

Kelly and Greenberg launched Current in Carmel in 2006, followed by Current in Westfield in 2008 and Current in Noblesville in 2009.

Kelly attributes the papers’ success in part to regularly polling readers through an independent research firm to determine what topics the paper covers.

“We’ve been criticized for letting readers determine what we write about, but that aspect of our business has been a resounding success both with our readers and advertisers,” Greenberg said. “We say the news is what our readers say it is.”

The Current papers typically don't cover sports or school news, for example.

Kelly and Greenberg said they both have lots of experience in seeing what does and doesn’t work in the newspaper industry.

Greenberg is the former sports editor and chief of special publications for The Indianapolis Star.

Kelly co-founded Nuvo Newsweekly in 1992, but left shortly after getting the alternative paper off the ground. He also is an investor in Times-Leader Publications, which publishes the Southside Times, a free newspaper in southern Marion and northern Johnson counties, and recently started free business publications in Hendricks, Johnson and Morgan counties. Kelly also started the Greenwood Gazette in 1986., selling it to the Star in 1996. It ceased publication in 2002.

Kelly said Current Publishing is not done growing.

“We’re looking at other markets where we can expand, both within and outside Hamilton County,” Kelly said. “We’re retaining 91 percent of our advertisers year-over-year, and I think that speaks to the need we’re meeting.”

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