What began more than two centuries ago as a single newspaper in Augusta, Ga., today has grown into a diversified media company with an international presence.
Morris Communications Company LLC’s holdings not only span the United States – from Alaska and Hawaii to Texas, Georgia and Florida – but also extend into the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Principality of Monaco and Australia.
Morris’s licensed publications further expand the company’s interests into Canada, Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Russia, Singapore and Macao. With its event-marketing division, National Barrel Horse Association, MCC reaches into Venezuela, Panama, China and other countries.
A private, family-owned company, Morris Communications traces its beginnings to a corporate structure dating from the 1800s. The modern-day company was established in 1945 with the creation of Southeastern Newspapers Inc., which grew to become Morris Communications Corp. in 1970.
In addition to its foundation business of newspaper publishing, the multimedia corporation over the years expanded into magazines and specialized publications, book publishing and distribution, radio broadcasting, visitor publications, cable television, commercial and residential broadband data and telephone services, event marketing, commercial printing and online services.
William S. (Billy) Morris III, who established Morris Communications more than four decades ago, is chairman and chief executive officer. William S. (Will) Morris IV, his oldest son, is president. Son Tyler Morris and daughter Susie Morris Baker are both associated with the company.
The Morris family became involved with The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle in 1929, when 26-year-old William S. Morris Jr., father of today’s CEO, became a bookkeeper at the daily newspaper. The Chronicle had begun publication in 1785 as the Augusta Gazette, the fledgling town’s first newspaper. Today, Morris Communications Co. maintains corporate headquarters only a few blocks from the site of its modest beginnings.
In 1945, Bill Morris, his wife, Florence, and a friend purchased controlling interest in The Chronicle. Ten years later, Morris and his wife bought the remainder of the outstanding stock along with the afternoon newspaper, the Augusta Herald.
Billy Morris, who had delivered the hometown newspapers from horseback as a boy, joined the company in 1956 as assistant to the president, a few days before his 22nd birthday. A decade later he became publisher of the two Augusta newspapers and president of the corporation.
With the Augusta newspapers as a base, the company began its expansion with the purchase of a radio and television station in Augusta, and added two other Georgia daily newspapers in Savannah and Athens. The company acquired its largest-circulation newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, and the St. Augustine (Fla.) Record, with the purchase of Florida Publishing Co. in Jacksonville Jan. 1, 1983.
In 1985 Morris Communications moved into outdoor advertising with the purchase of Naegele Outdoor Advertising, Inc., later renamed Fairway Outdoor Advertising. The single largest expansion in numbers of properties occurred in 1995 with the purchase of all outstanding stock of Stauffer Communications, Inc., of Topeka, Kan. The acquisition included daily newspapers, non-daily newspapers, shoppers, and television and radio stations.
Through the years, Morris Communications has continued to grow and seek diversity in holdings that further its objective of being the pre-eminent source of news, advertising, entertainment and information in the communities it serves.
Understanding the profit potential in the travel industry and the clear synergy with its existing presence in outdoor recreation markets, Morris purchased Best Read Guide Franchise Corp. in 1997 and added the upscale in-room travelers’ guides, Guest Informant and Where® in 2003 and 2004. Now the second-largest corporate division, Morris Visitor Publications provides advertisers with a targeted vehicle to attract customers and clients.
The company expanded overseas in 1998 with the acquisition of Cadogan Guides in London, England, and created the subsidiary company Morris Publications Ltd. UK. Later that year, Morris Purchased London This Week, a visitor publication now named the London Planner.
In 1991, Morris Publishing Group was formed to assume the operations of the newspaper business segment of its parent, Morris Communications Co. With a concentrated presence in the southeastern United States, MPG publishes 11 daily and numerous non-daily and free community newspapers.
All divisions of Morris are committed to providing the digital services customers need, be they readers or business clients. As digital audiences are growing at phenomenal rates, Morris hosts dozens of websites, mobile sites and mobile APPS, many of which have been recognized as best of breed in their industries.
Morris Publishing Group also launched Main Street Digital, a marketing services company providing the full range of digital marketing solutions that businesses operating in the MSD footprint require to effectively reach customers in their communities.
In 2011 Morris Communications entered into a strategic partnership with NIIT Technologies, a leading information technologies solutions organization based in New Delhi, India and serving clients in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The partnership significantly reduces the costs of operations and services while raising the level of services to meet future needs.
Since 1995, Morris Communications has built a strong record of leadership in the digital publishing environment. Its Morris Publishing Group is fully engaged in meeting industry imperatives of building and maintaining circulation in a highly competitive media climate.
The company has moved into the 21st century with optimism and enthusiasm, fortified by its heritage, its successes, and the dedication of its employees.