Canary In The Coalmine: NYT Sees First Decline In Online Ad Revenues

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In what may be an early indicator of broader Web advertising trends, the New York Times announced today that it saw total Internet advertising revenues decline 3.8 percent in November. This compares to a total decrease of 21.2 percent for all advertising at media company, most of which is print advertising. The New York Times releases financial data on a monthly basis, and this was the first time it has reported an actual decrease in Internet advertising revenues. (Internet advertising revenues for the year through November are still up 11.6 percent).

The NYT’s digital properties, which include NYTimes.com, Boston.com, and About.com, attracted 47 million unique visitors in November and collectively would have been the 16th largest site on the Web, according to comScore. In the third quarter, online advertising ground to a halt at the largest Web companies.

But most analysts are still arguing about the extent of the slowdown, not whether online advertising revenues will actually go down like other types of advertising. Barclays analyst Doug Anmuth, for instance, recently revised his 2009 Internet advertising revenue growth numbers down from 17 percent to 6 percent. But that might still be too optimistic.

That said, we still need more data points before any conclusions can be made about the fourth quarter or next year. The New York Times is not a perfect indicator of the overall advertising market. Most of its declines came from weakness in online classifieds, especially job and real-estate listings. On the positive side, its news sites actually saw an increase in display advertising in November. So there is some hope for other display advertisers.

Looking at November comScore stats for the NYTimes.com site alone, unique U.S. visitors were flat at 13 million was and pageviews were down 15 percent to 147 million (see charts below). Like many media sites, it is suffering from post-Election blues.

(Photo by matticgn).

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