The Grim Reaper takes another step

The slide in ad revenues in the newspaper industry continued in the third quarter of this year, as the NAA numbers show a 28 percent decrease in the third quarter of 2009.  It’s the 13th consecutive quarter of declines and prospects for the worst year for ad revenues in more than 20 years.

While the reality looks bleak, NAA officials saw a silver lining. “”There may not be great visibility into 2010 and beyond, but the broad consensus is that the worst has passed,”  NAA president John Sturm said. “Throughout the downturn, newspaper companies have made extraordinary progress in transforming their business models, positioning themselves as leading players in a multiplatform media universe where their superior audience engagement, content generation, and value for advertisers will ensure a successful future.”

Newspapers have been throwing people and products overboard over the past several years to lighten the load to stay afloat. But now they are selling their slimmed down products as a “multiplatform media universe?”

Looks more like lipstick on a pig.

Through the recession, publisher still haven’t address building readership and community that adapt and conform to new readers’ styles. Publishers are still focusing on building mass audiences for single products, when readers are turning their backs to “mass” packages. I look at my iPhone and see missed opportunities to build revenue through a specialized product (most newspapers are giving away their iPhone apps, which is a shame. It could have been a great revenue opportunity.)

Instead of making one “universal” product,  publishers should be instead be focusing on smaller products and delivery methods targeted for microcommunities. Build enough focused products and readers, and you can have a larger cumulative audience than you had with your ‘mass’ product … plus each one has potential for growth.

Build readers, and advertisers will follow. Target audiences, and you’ll get advertisers you may not have attracted before.

But, in the meantime, Rome continues to burn.

UPDATE, NOV. 28:  Alan Mutter, in his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, shares the sentiment that the numbers continue to spiral down, and offers some interesting stats to back it up. Click here to read.