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Lee Enterprises' Annual Meeting: Audience Is Growing, But Financial Outlook Remains 'Grim And Lousy'

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE) told investors at its annual stock meeting Tuesday that all of 2009 looks "grim" and its share price is expected to remain "horribly low." Longer term, the Davenport, Iowa-based publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the recent agreements its struck with lenders to refinance $306 million of its $1.1 billion bank financing. Most of all though, since its shareholders report mostly plays down the money troubles, Lee instead concentrated on its audience growth numbers.

Its online reach in the market it serves was up a bit to 7 percent in 2008 from 5 percent the previous year. And combined print and online reached 16 percent of the adults in the largest markets it operates incompared to 13 percent the year before. But it couldn't hide the fact that its print-only reach slipped to 47 percent from 49 percent in 2007. Overall, Lee said its newspapers reach 63 percent of all adults in its markets, while its newspaper sites reach 23 percent. As for St. Louis, where the P-D and have endured three layoff rounds in the past year, the combined news entities reach six of every 10 adults in the market. The full audience report is here (PDF).

By David Kaplan