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Extra! Extra! Newspapers Tanked in 2009

Worst ad revenue year since 1985; worst year-over-year drop in online, print ads ever

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For newspapers, 2009 was record setting — in a New Jersey Nets sort of way.

According to figures released Wednesday by the Newspaper Association of America, advertising revenue dipped below $25 billion for the first time since 1985 — declining 28.6 percent from 2008, the single year-over-year slide ever. (Previous record of 17.7 percent was set, uh, last year.)

Magazines ads, of course, plummeted in 2009, too — just not quite as sharply. Ad pages fell 25.6 percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau (the NAA doesn’t count pages, which is a more useful metric, given the steep discounts publishers often give ad buyers). Ad revenue for magazines in 2009 fell 18.1 percent.

But we all knew print advertising was hemorrhaging like Eric Idle in "European Vacation."

More problematic — nay, troubling — for newspaper publishers is this little factoid: online advertising fell more than 11 percent industry-wide compared to 2008. That, too, was the biggest year-over-year decline ever, or since NAA.org began tracking such figures in 2004. (The news even prompted the New York Times media columnist David Carr to tweet this: "When a bridge to future becomes place to hang yourself.")

The best newspaper publishers can hope for in 2010 is a return to 2005, when online advertising jumped 31.5 percent, and print advertising sustained a scant 1.5 percent increase.