Newspapers are supposed to be relying on the Web for new revenue streams. But the digital ad business may be letting them down.
The Washington Post reported this morning that its online ad revenue dropped 7 percent in the first three months of 2012. That follows a New York Times earnings release which saw that publisher’s Web ad business drop 2 percent.
(We should get some color on the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, when parent company News Corp. reports its earnings next week; News Corp. also owns this Web site.)
The Times said that digital sales were “under pressure” in the first quarter of the year, while the Post didn’t bother to add any color to its results. But it did note that online display ads were down 11 percent, while classifieds were down 1 percent.
Unlike the Times, the Post is essentially a regional newspaper, so it is harder to argue that its travails reflect a larger trend. And it’s also worth noting that the Post faces fierce competition for its core political coverage from Politico, an online/offline competitor that basically sprouted overnight.
But for the record: The rest of the Web publishing business — including not only Google but laggards like Yahoo — has been posting Q1 revenue increases. [An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that AOL's ad revenues were up for Q1; the company won't post its numbers until next week.]