Missoulian’s parent company announces offering of $1B in notes

I thought Missoulian readers would like to know about the latest financing announcement from Lee Enterprises, parent company of not only the Missoulian but also the Montana Standard in Butte, the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, the Helena Independent Record and the Billings Gazette.

Here’s the information that went nationwide via the Associated Press.

Associated Press
Lee Enterprises, the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is taking advantage of investors’ growing appetite for high-yield corporate debt to refinance its debt.
The newspaper company will sell just over $1 billion worth of notes due in 2017 and 2018 to retire nearly all of its existing debt, which is due in April 2012, it said Monday.

Like other newspaper publishers, Lee Enterprises Inc., which is based in Davenport, Iowa, has been struggling with a decline in advertising. But the economic recovery has slowed the decline.

Lee said Monday that it expects to report a revenue decline of 3.5 percent to 4 percent for the quarter that ended March 27, compared with last year. That compares with a 6.6 percent decline last year.

The Missoulian continues to be a strong and thriving business in our community. We all look forward to continuing to provide our print edition and online readers with an energetic and aggressive local news report each day.

Sherry Devlin

Welcome to Missoulian.com’s newest blog: Tennis Talk

A great new blog debuted this afternoon on Missoulian.com – “Tennis Talk” – presided over by the Missoulian’s own Bill Speltz.

Bill is a fan, a player, a father of stellar tennis players and – of course – a sportswriter for the Missoulian.

His new blog will provide regular installments on all things tennis, from youth, high school and college tennis to area adult competitions and pro tennis.

Bill welcomes your ideas and submissions as well, so drop him a line by commenting on his blog! Here’s a link to his inaugural post.

And my own welcome to Tennis Talk – feels more like spring every day!

Sherry Devlin

OMG!!!! It’s in the dictionary!!!!

I saw the story, datelined London, in this morning’s Missoulian and screamed out to my little dog: “OMG!! Noooooooo!!!!”

He did not respond.

Thus this blogpost.

The Oxford English Dictionary on Friday announced the addition of OMG, LOL, BFF and IMHO to its venerable pages. Nine-hundred new words were added to the publication this week, including the Internet shorthand “words.”

But is OMG really a word? Should we be celebrating text-messaging/Internet abbreviations by adding them to the dictionary?

Oxford says yes, as the “words” have “crossed over” into everyday use. Which, of course, is true.

But here’s what I thought was most interesting about the Associated Press story we ran in the newspaper: OMG actually dates back to 1917, when it was used in a letter written by a British admiral.

No kidding. OMG, it’s like, really old-fashioned.

Sherry Devlin

Live coverage of Treasure State Spelling Bee, today on Missoulian.com

Eighth-grader Claire Hinther reacts to winning the Missoula County Spelling Bee at Hellgate Elementary. Hinther competes in the state spelling bee in Billings Saturday. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian
Eighth-grader Claire Hinther reacts to winning the Missoula County Spelling Bee at Hellgate Elementary. Hinther competes in the state spelling bee in Billings Saturday. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

One of the many pleasures of being editor of the Missoulian is taking part, in a small way, in the Missoula County Spelling Bee each year. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s bee – and to congratulate the winners and give each a cash prize.

The Missoulian and our sister newspapers in Montana – the Billings Gazette, Ravalli Republic, Helena Independent Record and Montana Standard – are sponsors of our individual county spelling bees and then the Treasure State Spelling Bee.

The state bee is today in Billings, and we’ll provide live coverage – via CoverItLive – on the web this afternoon. You’ll be able to both watch as the bee progresses – one word at a time! – and to interact with our moderators.

Here’s a link to the live site.

Then we’ll have full coverage of the bee – stories and photos – in Sunday’s Missoulian and on Missoulian.com.

I hope you’ll join us today for coverage of the state bee, and in congratulating all the fine Montana young people – and their families – who have worked so hard over the past year reach the state finals.

Sherry Devlin

Live chat tonight on Missoulian.com: Grizzlies vs. Bears

Be sure to tune in to Missoulian.com tonight at 7 for our live chat from the University of Montana-University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball game.

This is the game of the season – so far – for the Griz. Win tonight and you’ve got the lead in the Big Sky.

So you’ll want to hear the play-by-play and commentary from Missoulian sportswriters Bob Meseroll and Bill Speltz and MontanaGrizzlies.com’s Gordon Terpe. They’ll be courtside with the live chat, updates on Twitter.com/missoulian and breaking news on Missoulian.com. We’d love to hear your own commentary as well – and the live chat provides that forum.

So join us for Grizzlies vs. the Bears. Tonight at Missoulian.com.

Sherry Devlin

Huff Post, AOL merger comes with significant challenge

So what do you make of AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post for $315 million? (Aside from marveling at the $1 million invested in the Huff Post when it was launched in 2005, and its value when the sale was completed late Sunday.)

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says the deal will push his company squarely into the news-gathering business. Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington, who will control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group, says her goals aligned neatly with those of AOL.

The deal, by the way, gives Huffington authority over AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, AND over the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone. Here’s a link to this morning’s story in the New York Times.

For my part, I hope Huffington uses the change-up to add more balance to her reporters’ stories. You’ve heard me say here before how much I think the overtly politicized nature of some web reporting diminishes the reputation of journalists and journalism.

This new, larger platform for both AOL and Huffington Post carries with it considerable responsibility. Will they rise to the challenge? Or veer even further from this nation’s long-honored journalist ethics of fair, balanced, unbiased news reporting?

Sherry Devlin

Live from Bozeman: Join us today for live chats from the Griz-Bobcat games!

lady griz

The Missoulian’s Griz and Lady Griz basketball beat writers – Bob Meseroll and Bill Speltz – are on the road this morning with photographer Michael Gallacher, en route to Bozeman for Round 2 of this year’s Griz-Cat games.

In addition to the stories, columns and photographs they’ll have for Sunday’s Missoulian and for Missoulian.com later today, they will join in a live chat during the games on Missoulian.com.

We’re collaborating on this and other Griz sports efforts with MontanaGrizzlies.com. In fact, Kyle Spurr of MontanaGrizzlies.com will moderate today’s live chats. We did the same from last weekend’s first round of Griz-Cat basketball, with great success. Lots of folks joined in the conversation and enjoyed the commentary and play-by-play.

Here are the details on today’s plans:

The Missoulian and MontanaGrizzlies.com will host live chats during both the women’s and men’s Griz-Cat basketball games Saturday. Kyle Spurr of MontanaGrizzlies.com will moderate the chats, providing updates, commentary and answering questions live from Montana State University. The live chats will be available just before tipoff on both Missoulian.com and MontanaGrizzlies.com.

Just log on and you’ll see the “live chat” link in the breaking news box on Missoulian.com.

Sherry Devlin

Potholes! We’re fighting back!

Photograph by KURT WILSON/Missoulian
Photograph by KURT WILSON/Missoulian


Recognize that pothole in the shot Missoulian photography editor Kurt Wilson took this morning?

Have a favorite pothole of your own?

Turns out, it’s a TERRIBLE year for potholes in Missoula. Keila Szpaller has the explanation in tomorrow’s Missoulian.

In the meantime, just for fun – and to brighten our overly gray days of late, we’re assembling an interactive pothole map on Missoulian.com. Reporter Joe Nickell got things started with a few of the mammoth gaps in Fifth Street. Then came Wilson’s photo from Greenough Drive. Now we need your photos!

Here’s how to submit:

E-mail photos – JPG format, please – of potholes along with the nearest intersection to jgrigg@missoulian.com, and we’ll post them online in the interactive map.

In the meantime, take care. Assistant news editor Cory Walsh heard a scanner call last night from some poor Missoula driver who fell into a pothole so cavernous they had to call 9-1-1 for help.

Sherry Devlin

Lee Enterprises shows 38 percent growth in digital ad revenue

There’s strong financial news this morning from Lee Enterprises, parent company to the Missoulian and our sister newspapers here in Montana: the Ravalli Republic, Helena Independent Record, Montana Standard and Billings Gazette.

Here’s the news release from the folks at Lee’s HQ in Davenport, Iowa:

DAVENPORT, Iowa (January 18, 2011) — Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE) reported today that for its first fiscal quarter ended December 26, 2010, digital advertising sales increased 37.8 percent compared with a year ago, while the decline in total revenue moderated to 1.0 percent, as forecast. Cash costs decreased 2.0 percent, more than forecast, and operating cash flow(1) increased 1.8 percent.

Earnings per diluted common share were 42 cents, compared with 62 cents a year ago. Excluding non-cash curtailment gains and other unusual matters in both years, adjusted earnings per diluted common share(2) increased to 29 cents from 22 cents a year ago.

Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer, said:

“Our digital growth continues at an aggressive pace. In addition to our 38 percent growth in digital advertising revenue, we’re up 25 percent in online unique visitors and 256 percent in mobile page views. As we introduce more new digital services and as the economy further recovers, we expect total revenue comparisons will continue to improve.

“In driving our strong digital growth, we have established robust mobile sites in all our markets, along with separate smartphone applications in most locations. Last fall we rolled out additional mobile apps in 19 markets providing in-depth coverage of local sports. Also, we have expanded our digital product portfolio to meet the increasing needs of our customers with capabilities for video, local business directories, digital couponing and search engine optimization.

“All by themselves, our newspapers remain, by far, the primary source of local news, information and advertising in our communities. Our online sites and digital products are expanding that reach through smartphones, e-readers and tablets. The result is a huge, growing audience spanning all ages. Our latest independent research shows that, over the course of a week, our newspapers and digital products touch 82 percent of all adults in our larger markets and 77 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds. In many of our smaller markets, our reach is even higher.”

FIRST QUARTER OPERATING RESULTS

Operating revenue for the quarter totaled $207.7 million, a decline of 1.0 percent compared with a year ago. Combined print and digital advertising revenue decreased 1.7 percent to $151.8 million, with retail advertising down 1.9 percent, national down 5.8 percent and classified down 0.2 percent. Combined print and digital employment advertising revenue increased 12.7 percent. Automotive increased 8.4 percent, real estate decreased 20.3 percent and other classified decreased 1.4 percent. Digital advertising revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 37.8 percent to $14.7 million, representing 9.7 percent of total advertising revenue. Digital retail advertising revenue increased 49.1 percent and digital classified advertising increased 7.3 percent.

Lee’s digital sites attracted 51.4 million unique visitors during the quarter, an increase of 25.1 percent from a year ago, with approximately 517.0 million page views. The number of mobile page views grew 256 percent to 25.8 million. Circulation revenue increased 0.8 percent, the company’s first quarterly increase since 2007.

Operating expenses, excluding depreciation and amortization, decreased 2.0 percent. Compensation declined 5.0 percent, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 3.2 percent. Newsprint and ink expense increased 23.5 percent, a result of higher prices partially offset by a reduction in newsprint volume of 2.8 percent. Other operating expenses decreased 2.9 percent. Despite the increased cost of newsprint, operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and unusual matters, are expected to increase less than 1 percent for the year.

Operating cash flow increased 1.8 percent from a year ago to $54.1 million. Operating cash flow margin(1) increased to 26.1 percent from 25.3 percent a year ago. Including equity in earnings of associated companies, depreciation and amortization, as well as unusual matters in both years, operating income totaled $49.2 million, compared with $67.8 million a year ago, due to a smaller curtailment gain in the current year quarter. Operating income margin was 23.7 percent in the current year quarter. Non-operating expenses, primarily interest expense and debt financing costs, declined $5.9 million. Income attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated totaled $18.9 million, compared with $27.9 million a year ago.

Uncover Missoula 2011: We need your help!

One of our biggest community service projects of the year – our Uncover Missoula publication – is under way.

That’s the Missoulian’s booklet that provides local residents with a variety of information about Missoula, including nonprofits, clubs, health resources, schools and more.

I know lots of folks who keep it with their essential references all year through – and we post it online for all you who prefer an electronic publication.

First, comes the reporting. And that’s where we need your help.

The newsroom is now working to contact the hundreds of organizations listed in the 2010 edition to get updated information; however, organizations are urged to contact us as well, as not all organizations may be contacted.

Organizations not listed in last year’s edition and wishing to be included are welcome to submit information as well. Include the name of the organization or group, mailing or street address, phone number, website, e-mail, contact person, followed by 50 words or fewer to describe what the organization does.

The deadline to have information updated or be included is 5 p.m. March 4.

To submit updated or new information, contact Tandy Khameneh at 523-5240 or at tandyk@missoulian.com, or by fax to 523-5294. For more information, call Khameneh at 523-5240.

Then watch for the 2011 edition of Uncover Missoula!

Sherry Devlin