This is the back page of the March 13 Estevan Mercury. On the left is a Colliers ad for the Estevan Mercury office building. On the right is an ad for the printing plant building.

Estevan, Weyburn, Carlyle, Assiniboia, Yorkton, Battlefords, Wilkie/Unity, Outlook, Humboldt, Moose Jaw, Canora, Kamsack, Preeceville affected

Glacier Media, which over the course of the first decade of this century acquired roughly one-fifth of all community newspapers in Saskatchewan, has gone back in time – selling off its online presence to Harvard Media, and reverting to print-only in Saskatchewan. But how long they will be printing newsprint appears to be up in the air, as Glacier has also put up all its community newspaper real estate properties throughout Saskatchewan for sale, including the building hosting its sole remaining Saskatchewan printing plant, located in Estevan.

That was the same press that consolidated all other Glacier printing operations in Saskatchewan, and is one of the last, if not the last, remaining large-scale printing presses left in Saskatchewan.

It’s a major shakeup in the Saskatchewan news media landscape, but one that Glacier has not made much noise about. The press release with Harvard Media didn’t even mention the word “newspaper,” nor did it list the publications affected. Indeed, there is no press release on the Glacier Media corporate web page at all referencing this, but it there is one posted on Harvard’s site. (This is typical behaviour from Glacier, as its shut down of two papers in northern British Columbia last fall saw hardly a whimper from the parent company.)

This is the press release, as published by Harvard’s CKRM:

Its an era when most media companies are putting fewer and fewer resources into local news.

Harvard Media is taking a different approach, as the company announced a huge expansion of its news presence in Saskatchewan with the acquisition of “SaskToday.ca” and “MooseJawToday.com.” The deal with Glacier Media includes a long term partnership agreement, which will allow both companies to continue to compete in an ever changing marketplace, while at the same time bringing high quality journalism to communities all across Saskatchewan.

Harvard Media is reaffirming its commitment to quality journalism and its role in fostering informed communities. “This acquisition and partnership reflect our belief in the power of local news and the importance of access to reliable information,” said George Leith, Managing Partner of Harvard Media. “We are excited to welcome SaskToday.ca, MooseJawToday.com, and many other local sites into our growing media portfolio.”

In addition to acquiring these online communities, Harvard Media also will now have a presence in 13 additional Saskatchewan markets including Weyburn, Estevan, The Battlefords, Humboldt, Assiniboia, Canora, Preeceville, Kamsack, Carlyle, Outlook and Unity/Wilkie as these online properties are included in the acquisition.

This will ensure the people of Saskatchewan have access to timely, important information in their communities, every day and every hour. Its represents a five-fold increase in Harvard Media’s reach that will benefit the audience, and clients in all of these communities.

It was also carried on SaskToday.ca in this story.

SaskToday.ca was formed in 2021 by merging the separate web pages for Glacier’s Saskatchewan publications, like EstevanMercury.ca and YorktonThisWeek.com into one common website for the whole province.

Pipeline Online has learned that a number of editorial staff have been transferred to Harvard Media, and that a mutual content-sharing arrangement has been made between the two companies. The newspapers will continue to publish, but many of those papers saw their already greatly-diminished newsroom staff over the last decade move to Harvard. They will still be able to use content from those staff, but in total it’s a net reduction of in-house editorial staff for the Glacier publications. Several newsrooms that a decade ago had five or six editorial staff are now reduced to one organic journalist on direct payroll.

The papers whose online contributions to those news websites include the Estevan Mercury, Weyburn Review, Yorkton This Week, Canora Courier, Preeceville Progress, Kamsack Times, The Outlook, Battlefords News-Optimist, Carlyle Observer, Assiniboia Times and Humboldt Journal (which ceased printing years ago, but still had an online presence via SaskToday.ca).

(Full disclosure: Pipeline Online editor Brian Zinchuk worked full-time for Glacier and is predecessor papers for 18 years up until 2021, and has produced content at one time or another for all the publications listed. Pipeline News was a Glacier product from 2008-2020. He did freelance work going back to 1992.)

Harvard Media is principally a radio-broadcasting entity which has associated news websites. Their current markets in Saskatchewan include Yorkton, Regina and Saskatoon, but they also have locations in Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton and Owen Sound.

The change comes about as a war between social media companies, news media companies, and the federal government has resulted in Meta’s Facebook and other entities blocking Canadian News content. In shutting down the aforementioned B.C. newspapers, Glacier’s president for community media Peter Kvarnstrom wrote that running the newspapers, and their online editions, is no longer sustainable as advertising revenue has “shifted heavily to online platforms such as Facebook and Google,” according to a Oct. 13, 2024 CBC article.

While Google reached an $100 million per year agreement with the federal government on Nov. 29, 2023, the battle with Meta is ongoing.

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All Saskatchewan community papers offices are for sale

Among the properties listed for sale by commercial real estate specialist firm Colliers are all the office buildings including Estevan, Weyburn, Yorkton, Canora, North Battleford, Outlook, Carlyle and Assiniboia.

But the crown jewel is the Estevan Web Printing location on the west side of Estevan. A July 17, 2020 SaskToday.ca article noted the printing company “produces from 500,000 to a million copies of newspapers, flyers and specialties on average every week.” In 2008-09, Glacier converted a former recreational vehicle dealership into printing plant, complete with a new printing press. Shortly after going into operation, Glacier tore out that new press and put in a new, much larger press to handle the regional printing contract for the Globe and Mail in 2010. All Glacier Saskatchewan and Manitoba papers as well as the Glacier-owned Western Producer were and continue to be printed there. In recent years, both the Regina Leader Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix shifted their printing to the Estevan press after the StarPhoenix shut down its press in downtown Saskatoon, put up its building for sale, and told its staff to work from home. The realty ad, which appeared on the back page of the March 13 Estevan Mercury, lists the 23,890 square foot press building for $2,989,000. The ad refers to the building itself, but not the press inside it, which, when it was built in 2010, cost in the range of $10 million. The ad notes, “Seller requires a short term lease back as a condition of sale.”

Alongside that ad is a similar ad for the Estevan Mercury office, listing it for $599,000. The Colliers listing for the North Battleford office and former printing plant of the Battlefords News-Optimist is listed for $629,000. The Yorkton This Week building, which decades ago had a hot lead press in it, is listed for $389,000 for 6,240 square feet. The Weyburn Review’s building is listed for $576,000.

Several of the listings notes, “Seller would be willing to negotiate up to a one (1) year leaseback for any owner-users that are not ready to move their operations immediately.”

Downtown ­Yorkton Commercial ­Property - #1

Yorkton This Week building. Colliers listing

In Canora, the office for the Canora Courier, Preeceville Progress and Kamsack Times doesn’t even offer a list price. The listing for the 4,972 square foot building is “for sale by tender.” The Carlyle Observer building is also similarly listed for sale by tender, as is the building for the Assiniboia Times and The Outlook in Outlook.

The total listed asking prices for real estate in Saskatchewan not for sale by tender is $5,182,000. Glacier Media’s stock price closed on March 15 at 9.5 cents per share, meaning that for a quarter, you could buy two shares and get a nickel and a penny back. The company’s market capitalization on that day was $11.9 million dollars, or 2.3x the listing price for just its Saskatchewan real estate. In 2007, the stock exceeded $4 per share and the market cap was in excess of $300 million.

 

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