Local news focus, expanded products improve Lee’s revenue trends
Shifting emphasis to local news and embracing a broad scope and portfolio of news, information and advertising products enabled Lee Enterprises, parent company of Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, to report at its annual meeting in February improved revenue trends and projections that advertising revenue would continue on a positive track.
“The business is financially healthy,” said Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises. Lee has outperformed the industry every quarter throughout this recession and back to 2003, she said.
Lee built its fiscal health on key operating priorities that include:
• Delivering strong local news and information;
• Maximizing its local online strength; and
• Expanding print and online audiences.
Local News First
“Our primary responsibility is to cover local news and to engage the community,” said John Humenik, Star publisher and editor. The Star’s focus is on telling the stories essential to Tucson, and challenging the status quo with watchdog reporting.
Cost-saving changes and trimming of the physical newspaper product have not hampered the Star’s ability to tell stories, he said. “Our watchdog capabilities are as strong as ever,” said Humenik.
The Star reorganized its print product, putting local news in the front section. Humenik said the “local news first” initiative has been a success, and most readers recognize the Star’s need to cover local news over much national and international news.
Newspapers are the Internet
“We call ourselves newspapers because that’s our primary medium and because it’s a term everyone readily understands,” said Junck. Lee Enterprises owns 49 daily newspapers, including the Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“In actuality, we’re much more than newspapers, and we’re much more than “newspapers and online sites,” Junck said in recent annual meeting press materials.
“Newspapers are the total package,” said Humenik. The print product and technology are a “1-2 punch” for delivering news and information, allowing immediate delivery of breaking, urgent news and time-sensitive information, and allowing in-depth and multi-media story telling.
More people than ever are reading newspapers, though not all in ink and newsprint. Lee’s newspapers and online sites continue to reach up to three-fourths of adults in its markets over a week, including 59 percent of people 18-29, Junck said in press materials.
The Star’s Web site, azstarnet.com, has about 11 million page views per month and about 2.5 million visitors per month. Daily readership of the Star’s print product is about 238,700 and 364,300 readers on Sunday.
The Star is one of 35 Lee markets with mobile web editions. It is experimenting with other techniques such a social networking, reader interaction and reader-submitted content, Humenik said.
The advertising and revenue-generating side of the newspapers also is evolving.
Despite the lingering drag of the recession, Junck said in annual meeting materials that advertising revenue performance continues to move toward positive; Lee strengthened its sales culture and digital presence and expertise; and costs have been dramatically reduced, which enabled Lee to generate earnings.
“This is not a dying industry,” said Humenik, but one that is meeting its challenges. Putting local news first and maximizing its online audience and strengths are helping to meet those challenges and fiscal constraints.
“Readers want things differently than they did 30 years ago, and we are changing as our industry faces new challenges,” Humenik said. “But readers still want to be told a good story.”
(Thanks to quinn.anya for the photo)