The Year in Online Newspaper Advertising: a Brief Overview

Which were the biggest online ad industry stories of ’08? Readers can wait for my year-end roundup story tomorrow in ClickZ News to find out which we thought made the cut.

One that was certainly important but not necessarily of sweeping impact for the industry as a whole was the ongoing saga of online newspaper advertising. The launch of quadrantOne and Yahoo’s APT platform were probably the most significant events.

In February, Gannett Co., Hearst Corporation, Tribune Company, and The New York Times Company launched quadrantOne. The goal was to grab more national ad dollars from large brands.

The network soon added several new Web sites and publishers to its network, all of which are also partnered with Yahoo.

Now, it’s been two years since Yahoo began signing ad and search deals with newspaper publishers as part of its newspaper consortium project — another one that’s meant to save them through higher display ad revenue from brand advertisers, among other things. Though the partner group has grown significantly, there’s much work to be done, including getting all of Yahoo’s paper partners on its APT ad management platform, which finally launched in September.

The consortium in a way let go of the Yahoo apron strings in August when it appointed a Tribune man, Michael Silver, as its new executive director. The partners also formed deals with Zillowin ’08, creating a real estate related ad network.

Adding another wrinkle to the drama, Centro’s acquisition of McClatchy-owned newspaper ad network Real Cities ended an era begun by the now-defunct Knight Ridder. The buy ended the existence of Real Cities as an entity; Real Cities was a division of Knight Ridder until McClatchy acquired KR in 2006.

Despite the fact that the industry has joined hands in various network efforts, the outlook is grim as paper publishers grapple with falling online ad revenues — the ones that were supposed to counteract the bleeding on the print side.
Indeed, after its first ever reported drop in online ad revenue in Q2 2008, the industry drifted another few notches in Q3. According to the Newspaper Association of America, online paper sites brought in $749.8 million in Q3, a drop of 3 percent from a year before.

Newspaper industry layoffs abound and will probably get worse in 2009. At this point, it’s not clear whether those have affected online ad sales teams. But if digital media is truly a last hope for newspapers, they’d do well to keep their digital ad sales operations strong.

What did I forget?

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