Photo (cc) 2014 by Robert Ashworth

This one comes in via former WBZ Radio (AM 1030) news director Peter Casey, who’s now a communications consultant and part of the team at the local startup Winchester News. Saga Communications, a Michigan-based company that owns radio stations in 27 secondary markets, is launching digital newspapers in 18 markets by the end of the second quarter, according to the website Inside Radio. Another story says that the outlets will be unveiled “across its entire footprint.” Despite the lack of clarity, it sounds like Saga’s eventual goal is to have an online newspaper anywhere it has radio stations.

Those stations include a number of New England markets: Brattleboro, Vermont; Greenfield, Northampton and Springfield, Massachusetts; Keene and Manchester, New Hampshire; and Portland, Maine. A quick scan of the stations shows that they mostly broadcast music, with formats including country, oldies and adult contemporary. I found a few news-and-talk stations in the mix as well, but they appear to be focused on local issues.

The stations will be based on a pilot that Saga is already publishing in Tennessee called Clarksville Now. A quick glance shows the site is newsy and community-oriented. Katie Gambill, who developed the site and who will be in charge of the rollout, is quoted as saying:

I am excited for the opportunity to spearhead this local online news and community connection site launch in other Saga markets. I honestly believe these local online news sites will help us to better serve and connect with our communities, especially when partnered with the power of radio. I am passionate about this endeavor and dedicated to the success of these sites, in fact, the Brand message for these sites is, “your community connection.”

Saga is a publicly traded company with annual revenues of about $114 million. Although there’s no substitute for local ownership, I think its Clarksville Now-modeled sites will be welcome in most communities. It’s also a great example of how a company that’s successful in one type of media can leverage that success and use it connect with its audience via news and information.

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