QC Times Sunday edition falls below average weekday circulation for first time; half 2001 level

Subscribers to the Quad City Times Sunday newspaper have fallen to 37,473, half the paper's circulation just 15 years ago.

And, for the first time, according to the Lee Enterprises, Inc. annual report to shareholders, Sunday circulation fell below that of the average circulation for its weekday editions.

Historically, Sunday papers typically have had much larger circulation than weekday editions. More advertising, ad circulars and more space for news have attracted readers to purchase single copies or opt for a Sunday- or weekend-only subscription.

The growth of the Internet and rise of online advertising have decimated print circulation and print advertising revenues at papers across the U.S. over the past two decades.

For Lee Enterprises, with 46 daily and 34 Sunday newspapers including the Quad City Times, fiscal 2016 saw an overall decline of 100,000 print and digital subscribers, according to figures in the company's annual report released December 9.

During the year, Lee's Muscatine Journal newspaper merged with the Quad City Times, adding 5,980 Muscatine subscribers to the Quad City Times weekday "circulation units."

The combined Quad City Times/Muscatine Journal circulation, however, fell 7.5 percent in fiscal 2016 to 38,939 units, compared to the joint circulation for the two papers in fiscal 2015 of 42,124. The Journal did not publish a Sunday paper.

Lee earnings for the fourth quarter ended Sept. 25 totaled $700,000 (1 cent per share), compared with $10.1 million (18 cents per share) for the same period in 2015.

For fiscal 2016, the company earned $35 million, 66 cents per common share, compared with $23.3 million, 44 cents per share, in fiscal 2015. Operating revenues fell 5.2 percent to $614 million in fiscal 2016, but a $30.6 million one-time gain from an insurance settlement helped offset the decline.

The company has aggressively reduced its workforce as revenues have fallen, and in the fourth quarter the company reported its compensation costs decreased 4.2 percent. At the end of the quarter, Lee employed 3,976 employees, including 1,062 part-time employees.

CLICK HERE to download the Lee fiscal 2016 annual report.

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