March 8, 2007

Big Profits in Small Newspapers

Frank Ahrens:
If there's any good news about the businesses of newspapering these days, it can be found at the industry's littlest papers, which are doing well even as their bigger brothers founder.

Lee Enterprises, based in Davenport, Iowa, for example, owns 56 daily papers and more than 300 small weeklies and other publications. Three of its papers have a circulation of more than 100,000 -- including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- but the rest of its dailies are much smaller, averaging about 26,000 each.

Over the past five years, the circulation gains at Lee papers have outpaced the industry average; some of the gains came from acquisitions, but much came from the growth of the group's existing papers. Over the past two decades, the company's stock price has likewise gone in the opposite direction of large-newspaper stock, climbing steadily from less than $10 a share in 1988 to more than $30 a share today.

"We're largely in markets . . . that have pretty good local economies, a strong sense of place and strong newspaper readership," said Mary E. Junck, Lee's chairman and chief executive. Another advantage: "Many of our markets are pretty homogenous and tightknit," she said, making it easier to pin down and target readership.
Posted by James Zellmer at March 8, 2007 2:46 PM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
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