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Nantucket Gazette reborn, finds niche

Island’s paper taps old stories, new ads

The Nantucket Gazette was launched in 1816 and reborn this summer. The Nantucket Gazette was launched in 1816 and reborn this summer. (Nantucket Gazette)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / September 3, 2011

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When Nantucket Magazine publisher Bruce A. Percelay wanted to start a new newspaper, he looked back - all the way back to 1816.

That was the year the Nantucket Gazette, the island’s first newspaper, was established.

This summer, Percelay resurrected the newspaper with articles from the island’s past - the disappearance of a whaler, a contract for a new steamship - but, of course, with new ads.

“I have a romantic passion about newspapers,’’ said Percelay, a Boston real estate developer and history buff.

Percelay’s publication is the latest on an island that’s 15 miles long and about three miles wide, but home to more media properties than communities many times its size.

The reason: A population, especially during the summer season, that advertisers crave.

“Nantucket is the definition of heaven for an advertiser, where affluent Americans from all walks of life cluster together for vacation,’’ said Geoff Klapisch, an advertising professor at Boston University. “People go to Nantucket looking for things to do and to spend money. Nantucket is filled with quality consumers.’’

Percelay said he revived the Gazette so that visitors and residents could get a sense of the island’s newsy past; “Nothing brings you back in time like reading daily accounts of life on the island,’’ said Percelay, whose free throwback newspaper has 20,000 copies distributed in its first issue.

But the newspaper was also designed to capture advertising dollars from businesses that want to reach the island’s much-coveted demographic. Median home values on the island were ranked among the nation’s highest at about $1 million, and median household income is about $68,700, according to Census figures released earlier this year.

The island’s yearly population is about 10,172, up by 7 percent in the last decade, and the number triples during the summer months.

Other island media include The Inquirer and Mirror weekly paper, which has operated since 1821.

There is also Nantucket Today magazine, which publishes six issues a year. Both are produced by Dow Jones Local Media Group. Marianne Stanton, editor and publisher of that magazine and newspaper, declined to comment on Percelay’s new publication.

And there’s ample local television, including Plum TV, a lifestyle network with shows that focus on social events, nightlife, travel, food, and tourism in Nantucket. There’s GenoTV, which is produced by Geno Geng, who highlights the people and places on the island.

Launching next month NCTV, known as Nantucket Community Television, a public access station on Comcast Corp.’s cable service.

The channel will focus on local news, government meetings, and culture, according to Gene Mahon, president of NCTV and publisher of an island e-newsletter about events.

Don Freedman, owner of Freedman’s of Nantucket, a home accessories business, bought a full page ad in the new Gazette.

He said he liked how the publication painted another portrait of island life, when shipwrecks and horse thefts were headlines.

“The Gazette makes Nantucket a little more unique because of its history and character,’’ said Freedman.

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.