Newspaper Q3 Ad Revenue Sinks to Historic Lows

Print and online newspaper advertising revenue plunged 18.11 percent in the third quarter of this year — the worst decline by far in the nearly four decades the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has been tracking quarterly performance.

According to the NAA statistics — updated without fanfare the day before Thanksgiving — newspaper ad sales for the quarter of 8.94 billion were nearly $2 billion lower than the third quarter of 2007.

The contraction marked the sixth straight quarter in which newspaper ad revenue fell compared to the prior year’s quarter. This year’s statistics have been a study in accelerating losses — down 12.85 percent in Q1; 15.11 percent in Q2; and 18.11 percent in Q3. The NAA has tracked quarterly ad results since 1970.

Though the 30.85 percent decline in third-quarter classified ad revenue was no surprise, given the drumbeat of poor earnings reports in recent weeks — online turned negative for the first time since NAA has kept separate statistics. The revenue total of about $750 million was 3 percent behind the year-ago period.

The big three categories of classifieds all were down by big percentages. Help-wanted dropped 43.6 percent in the quarter, real estate collapsed by 38.6 percent; and automotive plunged 29.2 percent.

Overall retail ad sales tumbled 11.7 percent. National was down 18.4 percent — in its 14th consecutive year-to-year decline.