NEW YORK — Combined print and online advertising revenue at U.S. newspapers slid 1.5% to $11.8 billion in the third quarter, hurt by falling automobile and help-wanted classified sales, an industry group said Tuesday.
The decline marks the first time that combined print and online spending fell since the Newspaper Assn. of America began measuring such revenue in 2004.
The drop, which follows several quarters of small gains in ad spending, highlights the problems that publishers face as advertisers chase readers who increasingly are getting information from a variety of other media.
John Kimball, the association's chief marketing officer, said the business was changing but he cautioned that "one dip does not a trend make."
Print editions accounted for most of the spending at $11.1 billion, a 2.6% drop from the same quarter a year earlier.
Online spending jumped 23% to $638 million, the 10th consecutive quarter of double-digit increases, the group said.
Online made up less than 6% of overall spending but publishers hope that it will rise over the next few years and eventually compensate for declines in print.
"Obviously the online revenue is going to become a much more significant part of the overall spend," Kimball said. "Another encouraging sign is, I don't know of a newspaper in the United States that isn't staying up nights trying to figure out the best way to grow their print product as well."
Spending on print classified advertising fell 3% to $4.1 billion, while national advertising dropped 8.3% to $1.7 billion. Retail ad spending held steady.
In classified spending, real estate rose 10.5% to $1.35 billion, but help-wanted ads fell 10.1% to $1.1 billion and automotive ads tumbled 11.7% to $968 million.
Several newspaper publishers struck deals this month with Internet search engine companies to use their technology to sell advertising online.
Belo Corp., Journal Register Co., Lee Enterprises Inc., EW Scripps Co. and other companies are working with Yahoo Inc. on a deal to let them use Yahoo's technology to offer help-wanted advertising and local information services on their papers' websites.
Rival search engine Google Inc. made a deal of its own this month with Tribune Co.'s Chicago Tribune, New York Times Co.'s Boston Globe and the Seattle Times.