Ad Revenue Sees 13th Consecutive Quarter of Decline in Q3

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Newspaper advertising revenue dropped for the 13th consecutive quarter in the third quarter, with 2009 ad sales shaping up to be the lowest since 1987.

In figures released late Thursday by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), newspapers’ third-quarter ad revenue fell 28% from the same period in 2008 to $6.4 billion.

Through the first nine months of the year, ad revenue was just $19.9 billion — also a drop of 28% from the year-ago period and a result that almost certainly ensures that 2009 will end with ad sales below $30 billion for the first time in 22 years.

In a statement, NAA President and CEO John Sturm said the Q3 results should come as no surprise, given the depressed overall economy and results from publicly traded newspaper companies: “Rather, these numbers are in line with most expectations, and even show some modest directional improvement in key categories like retail and national.”

The decline of the third-quarter did moderate slightly from the year-over-year results of the second quarter of 2009, which was down 29%.

The decline of national advertising, however, actually accelerated, falling 29.84% year-over-year, compared with 29.61% in the second quarter and 25.87% in the first quarter.

Classified advertising continued to hemorrhage in the third quarter, falling 37.9% in the third quarter. That was an improvement on the 40.42% drop of the second quarter and 42.34% decline in the first quarter.

Newspapers are looking to the future, Sturm said in the statement posted — like the Q3 numbers — without fanfare on the NAA’s Web site: “There may not be great visibility into 2010 and beyond, but the broad consensus is that the worst has passed. Throughout the downturn, newspaper companies have made extraordinary progress in transforming their business models, positioning themselves as leading players in a multiplatform media universe where their superior audience engagement, content generation, and value for advertisers will ensure a successful future.”

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