Backpage.com, one of the most accessible and anonymous platforms for adults to buy sex with children, has been the focus of Shared Hope’s advocacy campaign, and has resulted in the departure of many national and local advertisers including Starbucks, AT&T, LiveNation, American Airlines, Best Buy, Macy’s, and U.S. Bank. Thanks to YOUR pressure, Village Voice Media (VVM) has decided to split from the Backpage.com advertising site to create a new company called Voice Media Group.
The new company, managed by CEO Scott Tobias, former president and COO of VVM, along with CFO Jeff Mars, former VP of finance at VVM, and executive editor Christine Brennan, has agreed to buy the print publications and digital properties (excluding Backpage.com). It will manage the 13 alternative weekly newspapers and their websites as well as a national advertising network unaffiliated with Backpage. No one involved with the current ownership of VVM will hold any part of the new company.
“Backpage has been a distraction – there’s no question about it – to the core (editorial) properties,” Tobias said.
The loss of some key advertisers and the revenue generated by Backpage.com, has forced Voice Media Group to make it a priority to entice new advertisers. Tobias said Voice Media Group is exploring the possibility of a strategic partnership, but declined to specify any potential partners. To keep this new company on its feet, Tobias and other former VVM editorial management executives have raised “some money from private investors” for Voice Media Group.
Current VVM shareholders Jim Larkin, CEO, and Mike Lacey, executive editor, will continue to operate Backpage.com as a separate entity, raking in over $20 million a year in advertising fees. “Backpage.com, which is not included in the transaction, will become the centerpiece of a new online classified advertising company with business worldwide,” Village Voice Media said in a statement provided by general counsel Elizabeth McDougall.
Unfortunately, since the original owners of VVM chose to keep Backpage.com going, they continue to generate an extraordinary amount of revenue through its adult advertisement section. So we’re not quite done yet. Backpage.com is still being used to exploit children. We’re hopeful that the company’s owners will be held accountable through either criminal or civil charges and that Members of Congress will take legislative action to protect our children from being sexually exploited through websites like Backpage.com.