Friday, November 10, 2006

Not the best of times

Plunging 2.1% from last year, newspaper ad sales were a “bust” in the third quarter, says Miles Groves, the independent analyst who is to publishing what Madame Defarge was to guillotine victims in “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Unlike Madame Defarge, who savored the aristocratic executions she documented in her knitting, Miles, who authoritatively compiles and analyzes industry data, actually wants newspapers to succeed.

But there was an uncharacteristic note of despair in the latest issue of his publication, MG Strategic Research. “As is no surprise to any reader,’ he writes, “the third quarter finished as a bust.”

In the worst performance in years, newspaper advertising in the third quarter fell 2.1% from the prior year to a bit less than $3.77 billion in sales. The primary drag was September, whose $1.28 billion in revenues were 3.2% below those of the previous year. The weakening sales momentum of newspaper advertising is illustrated in the table below.

With the crucial fourth quarter well under way, let’s hope everyone keeps his head.