New Village Voice owner distances alt weeklies from Backpage.com

Late yesterday a new holding group, Voice Media Group, announced it would purchase the media properties of Village Voice Media Holdings, owners of alt-weekiles such as the Village Voice, LA Weekly and Seattle Weekly, as well as the free classified service Backpage.com. While the new group will take all existing newspapers and their online counterparts, Backpage has been left out of the restructuring.

The media properties have seen their own share of troubles in the past few years, most recently with a rash of high-profile layoffs and departures, but Backpage has been an even greater source of controversy. You may remember last year when the service found itself embroiled in charges underage sex trafficking, which went on to involve everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and then legal battles with Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who recently called the service an “online red-light district.”

“Voice Media Group will center its attention on the growth of the renowned weekly publications and continue its expansion into new and exciting mobile and online platforms,” said Scott Tobias, who has been Village Voice Media Holdings’ chief operating officer and will be chief executive officer of the new Voice Media Group, in a statement. “We are focused on building a dynamic media business that allows our advertisers to target local audiences through multiple platforms.”

According to CS Monitor, Tobias said in an interview that Backpage.com “has been a distraction, there’s no doubt about it.” and “This is about two businesses moving forward.”

The Village Voice Media site has been offline for much of the day.

Editor’s Note: Grant Brissey is a freelance journalist who also writes for the Stranger, a competitor of the Voice Media Group-owned Seattle Weekly.