Q1 Web Ad Spend Surges to $2.8 Bil.

NEW YORK Internet ad spending continued to rise in the first quarter, expanding for the ninth straight quarter, according to industry estimates.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers released the revenue estimates based on sales reports from online publishers and other Internet media providers.

The IAB noted the $2.8 billion first-quarter estimate is the highest ever reported for a quarter, representing a 26 percent increase from last year’s first quarter. The report also believes the industry expanded 4.3 percent from the fourth quarter, which traditionally attracts the highest ad spending from holiday promotions.

“Marketers continue to recognize the relevance of interactive as an integral part of their marketing mix,” said Greg Stuart, the IAB’s president and CEO, in a statement.

The IAB and PwC attributed the increased spending to a growing online audience that is appearing more attractive than the fragmented TV landscape and the growth of broadband in U.S. homes.

The IAB report comes on the heels of other upbeat assessments of the Internet advertising business. Goldman Sachs last week raised its forecast for 2005 interactive ad spending, predicting it will expand 28 percent during the year to capture $12.3 billion, or 4.4 percent of total U.S. ad spending.

Forrester Research last month forecast Internet ad spending would increase 23 percent this year to reach $14.7 billion. Another forecaster, eMarketer, which culls together several forecasts and uses the IAB/PwC’s as its benchmark, pegs the industry growing 34 percent to $12.9 billion.