The historic drop resulted from a worsening economy that sharply exacerbated long-term challenges already confronting the newspaper industry, and it affected all kinds of newspaper ads. National ad sales fell 18.4%, classifieds sank 30.9%, and the biggest category, retail, slid 11.7%. Newspapers' online ad sales, where everyone is hoping some part of the future business model resides, accelerated their decline with a 3% drop. Online ad sales slipped 2.4% in the second quarter.
This fall's financial collapse affected only some part of the latest results. However, the rest of the year is likely to look even worse.
"The performance in the third quarter was affected only partially by the worldwide financial panic that froze the credit markets in mid-September, throttling the already waning demand for hiring, auto sales and home purchases," said Alan Mutter, the newspaper veteran turned Silicon Alley entrepreneur, on his blog. "The outlook for the final period of the year is worse, when the three classified verticals are likely to experience the full impact of the economic meltdown."