Feb 7

2022

The latest news on The Buffalo News

In a new report, the company that owns Buffalo's daily newspaper paints an optimistic picture of the chain's future. Analysts see warning signs in the numbers, however.

Here’s the latest on the tussle over the ownership of the chain that owns The Buffalo News:

To recap, Alden Global Capital made a bid late last year to purchase Lee Enterprises, whose newspaper holdings include The News. Lee has resisted in a series of maneuvers and the back-and-forth between the companies has gotten quite nasty. 

The latest salvo came last week in the release of the chain’s quarterly financial report in which it described its media holdings as “the fastest growing digital subscription platform in local media.” Net profits were $13.2 million. All is good, according to Lee.

Alden had a different take, declaring the numbers “disappointing” and Lee’s integration of newspapers it bought from Warren Buffett in March 2020 as “inept.” Those papers include The News.

Investigative Post turned to two independent industry analysts, neither of which are fans of Alden, for their take.

Ken Doctor, who heads his own digital news operation in Santa Cruz, CA, wasn’t impressed with Lee’s spin. 

In an email, he told us: “The continuing overall circulation revenue loss is most telling. They are buying lots of digital starts, but the loss in circulation revenue tells, combined with declines in revenue overall, says they are not ‘transitioning’ well after 15 years of transition.”

Rick Edmonds, media analyst at the Poynter Institute, wrote a column on the Lee report that said the numbers “suggest that that 59% year-to-year growth in digital-only subscriptions appears to have been achieved only with deep discounting.”

We asked Edmonds if he thought Alden would eventually prevail in its efforts to acquire Lee.

His response: “I can’t really predict.  Of course they could up their offer, but they may well be too cheap for that. They have tried some of these takeover moves and ended up walking away.  By the same token, they are often patient and persistent. Should keep us both watching for a while.”