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Newspaper Ad Revs Dropped 16.6 Percent In ’08; Online Slipped 1.8 Percent

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The figures are in, and last year was the worst in newspaper history: Ad revenues fell 16.6. percent to $37.8 billion in 2008, according to the latest figures from the Newspaper Association of America. As for the online slice, 2007’s 18.8 percent gain feels very far away, as website sales slipped 1.8 percent to $3.1 billion. Over the last few years, classified advertising has suffered the most of any other sales category, and as the NAA’s stats show, the damage in ’08 was great: classified ads plummeted 29.7 percent to $9.9 billion. Job ads did even worse, falling 42.5 percent to $1.6 billion; real estate was down 37.8 percent to $1.5 billion; and automotives dropped 29.1 percent to $949.5 million. Full NAA figures are here.

Worst year in newspapers’ history: Since the NAA has declined to put its numbers in context since online dollars started heading south last year, Alan D. Mutter is ready to step in: “Sales declined at an accelerating pace in each quarter of 2008, tumbling nearly 20% in the last three months of the worst year in the history of the industry… The industry has shed nearly $11.6 billion in sales since achieving its all-time peak of $49.4 billion in 2005. Thus, 23.2% of its revenue base was vaporized in just three years.”

Return to 1993: Back in October, Mutter correctly forecast that newspaper sales would fall by $7.5 billion. The cratering of the newspaper business and the deepening of the recession may make his latest forecast for 2009 seem rosy: another 17 percent drop to roughly $31 billion, which is what the newspaper industry brought in back in 1993.