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Lee sheds 8% of its full-time employees last quarter; revenue down

Lee's Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa.
Lee’s Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa.

MASON CITY – Lee Enterprises, Inc. the owner of the Globe Gazette, filed its 1st quarter financial results on January 22nd.

According to a press release, regarding its employees, “compensation decreased 4.9%, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 8.1%.”

The press release indicates that Lee revenues declined nearly across the board.

“Operating revenue for the 13 weeks ended December 30, 2012 decreased 3.4% compared with a year ago. Combined print and digital advertising revenue decreased 6.3%, with retail advertising down 3.8%, classified down 7.7% and national down 24.2%.  Combined print and digital classified employment revenue decreased 8.9%, while automotive decreased 6.9%, real estate decreased 11.5% and other classified decreased 5.9%. Digital advertising revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 4.8%”, Lee claimed.  “Print advertising revenue on a stand-alone basis decreased 7.7%. Circulation revenue increased 3.9%.”

Lee claimed that operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and unusual matters, decreased 4.0%.

Lee continues to tighten up the cost to produce its print product, which has become noticeably smaller in some markets in recent years.

“Newsprint and ink expense decreased 13.1%, a result of a reduction in newsprint volume of 12.6%. Other operating expenses decreased 0.6%.”

Lee claimed in the press release that its “paid content initiatives” are “receiving good reception.  Circulation revenue, which includes digital subscriptions, increased 3.9% in the quarter.”



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Really not surprising in just about any respect. It is more indicative of print media in general. The Globe’s and Lee’s financial problems are simply a microcosm of that. Just a few years ago, the New York Times was on the verge of bankruptcy with almost ONE BILLION dollars in debt. Even most of the major news magazines like Time, Newsweek and others are seeing large decreases in circulation. It is just too easy to have news downloaded to a smart phone, laptop, notebook, etc… I will agree with Mr Marquardt on one thing, which is there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were angry and disappointed when the Globe shed their message boards and forums. Things used to be pretty vibrant, discussion-wise, on those boards and I think it pretty much is non-existent after they tried to switch their forums to their Facebook page. I don’t know anyone, personally, who posts on there anymore. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you if the Globe still HAS a message board on FB. But overall, print media is going away. Lee’s problems are just symptoms of an even more widespread problem.

I guess I can’t speak about the Globe’s support for the city council or the Chamber of Commerce. I will say that I haven’t personally read anything overtly supporting either entity in their general reporting. Op-Eds are a different story, obviously, but that is pretty typical of just about any paper. I know John Skipper has his thoughts and viewpoints, as well. Again, pretty typical of just about any paper. But, in a larger sense, it goes above and beyond even print media. All one has to do is take a close look to see how much the Internet has really changed things. Even the major cable companies are struggling to maintain their subscribers. With Netflix, Blockbuster and others providing streaming content, more and more people are dropping their cable and satellite providers in favor of online video. And why not? If it only costs you $9 a month for video on demand, that beats the heck out of paying $30 or more a month for basic, expanded and premium cable and satellite. With Hulu Plus you can watch pretty recent programming, as well. Even radio isn’t immune from this, particularly with Sirius, Spotify and others. Online streaming of music, where you can listen to just about anything you want without having to actually BUY the song or the album, is a medium we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of. I do agree with your sentiment, Matt, that the Globe needs to branch out into the digital realm more. There are so many “extras and goodies” that you can add digitally that you simply can’t provide in a print format. With print, you get your standard six columns of print and a specified number of sections. And, yes, TONS of inserts and advertising. But the bottom line is, no pun intended, that it is generally much cheaper to operate online than actual print. And even television and radio are getting a run for their money from the internet.

I disagree with you both. I think Mr.Q publisher of the GG and his staff do a great job. They do a great job reporting the news and respecting peoples wishes unlike this site.

@Julie-you must work there or have a relative that works there.

Never have subscribed to the Globe, never will. I sometimes get weak and buy a Sunday newspaper maybe once every month or two. However, I regret it after peeling all the useless inserts out. The remaining pages are either news I already learned about three days ago, national news that is old, or classified ads about jobs that are not paying enough for me to even consider.

This should surprise no one. The GLOB called me a week ago to tell me that my subscription was due in a week. I asked why they called because it was not over due or even due and they wouldn’t tell me. I told them we had never been late or missed a payment and I resented them calling. They must be real cash poor if they are doing that. If they ever do it again they will lose a customer that has paid for the rag for over 30 years.

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