US newspapers face sharp drop in advertising sales

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The Independent Online

Advertising saleS are slumping across the US newspaper industry, as it faces a double whammy of a weakening economy and a switch in spending to alternative media.

Figures from one of the nat-ion's most recognisable newspaper brands, The New York Times, showed advertising revenue fell 15.3 per cent in July, and other papers owned by the same parent company are doing even worse. The division, which includes The Boston Globe, saw advertising income down by a quarter last month.

Across The New York Times Company, which is the third-largest newspaper group in the US, advertising fell 17.9 per cent from July 2007.

A collapse in classified advertising revenue, particularly real estate listings, was one factor in the latest decline, but retailers have also been pulling back their spending on display advertising.

And there were worrying signs that the growth in online advertising income, which has mitigated at least some of the slump in print advertising, has slowed to a crawl because of the economic downturn.

The New York Times website – by far the most popular newspaper site in the US, with 19.5 million visitors in July, up 38 per cent – and the company's sister sites eked out only a 0.9 per cent increase in ad revenues, because jobs listings declined.

The New York Times Company share price has fallen to levels not seen in over a decade, as investors fret about the future of the industry, and the stock was down about 1 per cent in lunchtime trading in New York yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sam Zell, the billionaire who bought the Tribune newspaper group last year, contributed his own downbeat assessment of trading. He said: "In the first half of the year, the newspaper industry has seen publishing advertising revenues decline around 15 per cent, and I can tell you it hasn't gotten any better in July or August."

The downturn has forced the Tribune Group, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, to sell assets and cut staff to meet interest payments.