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Tayoun plans for Phila Public Record's future

"I have hopes for the next generation"

Jimmy Tayoun, the former South Philadelphia state rep and city councilman, restaurant owner and family man who emerged from his early 1990s corruption sentence to build a new career as publisher, says talks with a potential buyer convinced him to expand coverage by the Philadelphia Public Record, his political weekly newspaper and Web site group. While he figures out its future, including a possible sale, if he finds a good buyer and price.

He won't keep the 16-year-old publication in the family? "I have three sons, doctors," and his daughters are also busy elsewhere, he told me from his office at 1323 South Broad St. "I have hopes for the next generation. But can I wait that long?" asks Tayoun, who is 85.

Tayoun says Philadelphia sheriff's sale property listings, city and public-authority ads, and labor-union ads and participation in Public Record events, help keep his paper afloat. "I'm the only pro-union paper in Pennsylvania," he boasts. He's closer to Ed Coryell's Carpenters -- two of his grandsons are members -- than to Johnny Doc's Electricians -- "Doc and I don't get along."

The paper is fattest before elections. Tayoun says it's also been used profitably by advocates to rally advocates on hot-button issues, such as soda distributors and Teamsters who successfully opposed to Mayor Nutter's proposed sugary soft-drinks tax.

"My secret is I get this paper in everybody's hands" in Harrisburg state government and Philadelphia city government, from the General Assembly to the jury rooms, Tayoun said. "They look through the Inquirer and the Daily News and the Harrisburg Patriot. But they read the Public Record." His fulltime staff of 11, augmented by stringers, makes sure the paper is dropped on desks and stuffed into mailboxes.

The Public Record says it sells 6,000+ subscription copies a week, it emails aggressively to its target audience, and Tayoun says the Web site gets 50,000-70,000 hits a week. "I can sell as many ads as I need to," he says. "If I put out just 16 pages, I lose money that week. 20 pages, we break even. 24 pages, we make money. Above that it's all profit."

Tayoun posted today that Tom Allon, CEO of City & State New York, sent him a note lately that read in part: "We are interested in acquiring the Philadelphia Public Record with the plan of investing in digital and events to expand its reach.… We are confident our ability to invest and build out what you have created will help extend your publication's reach."

Tayoun told readers he answered, in his Old World-inflected way: "We are humbled and appreciative of your interest in acquiring the Philadelphia Public Record newspapers. We do share the belief a combined operation would no doubt help us enrich our efforts to reach the political communities here in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth as your efforts have done in New York.

"However, after a thorough discussion of your offer with my staff, we are united in the belief you do not fully understand the depth, scope, and reach of these papers and the impact they make on the political community particularly, as well as other major communities. Neither does your offer take into consideration the financial and physical investment which contributed to it. It is far below what you seem willing to commit to this merger."

Tayoun says his papers will now "extend coverage of politicians and their activities in other counties throughout the Commonwealth, providing the same service Allon indicated he would offer... We now make it possible for county officials to subscribe to our digital coverage at no cost and to contribute their news daily and weekly in the Commonwealth as well as their own counties."