And while 3.3 percent isn't terrible -- the economy continues to stink, and the proliferation of free content online continues to make profitability difficult for newspapers -- it's problematic in that revenue was already down 7.3 percent in 2010 compared to 2010. So they're not just declining; they're declining from a previous decline.
For the fourth quarter, which ended September 25, Lee says that it expects to report a decline of 3.8 percent compared to the same quarter in 2010. Digital advertising is up 23.4 percent, but that's not nearly enough to stanch the bleeding from the dead-tree edition. (For the year, digital advertising is up 27 percent.)
So what does that mean for investors? Lee owes nearly $1 billion in debt, which is coming due soon. And while it's worked out a plan to refinance -- and push back payment -- on $864 million of it, it still needs to secure refinancing on another $175 million. With stock trading at just around 70 cents per share, a far cry from the heady days of the company's acquisition of the Post-Dispatch, when it traded for nearly $40, it faces delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.
So, another 3.3 percent decline isn't exactly the end of the world. But it's not good, either. This is a company that could use some good news; today, at least, they're not getting it.