Lee reports drop in print, digital ad revenue; maintains digital transition strategy will succeed

Lee Enterprises – owner of the Quad City Times, Dispatch/Argus and 70+ other news publications and web sites – reported first quarter earnings of $1.2 million, a 32 percent decrease from the same period a year ago.

Lee executives again boasted of its growth in digital subscriptions (up 58 percent from the first quarter of 2022), but overall subscription revenue fell 10.5 percent compared with the same period last year.

"Our first quarter results demonstrate our confidence in Lee's digital transformation," Kevin Mowbray, Lee's President and Chief Executive Officer, stated in its earnings news release issued Feb. 1. "We are on a clear path to becoming sustainable solely from the revenue and cash flow from our digital products."

While the company has been pushing aggressively to move print subscribers to digital subscribers, the overall impact has been a steady decrease in total operating revenues.

For the first quarter, print revenue fell 42 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago, while digital ad revenues declined nearly 3 percent. Overall operating revenue for the first quarter totaled $155.7 million, down 16 percent from the first quarter of 2022.

Helping offset the decline in revenues, the company's operating expenses were cut by 15 percent with the biggest decline (21 percent) in compensation (employee wages).

Also helping the company salvage positive earnings for the period were one-time "Curtailment/Settlement gains" totaling $3.6 million.

CLICK HERE to download the full Lee earnings release for the quarter ended Dec. 24, 2023.

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