The Newspaper Association of America reported a 3.5 percent gain in advertising sales in the first quarter of 2004 compared to the same quarter last year, with real estate classified ad spending up 6.2 percent to $833 million.

The association is a nonprofit organization that represents more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Most members are daily newspapers, accounting for 87 percent of the U.S. daily circulation.

In the fourth quarter of 2003, real estate classified ad spending was up 6.6 percent over the fourth quarter of 2003, to $1.2 billion, the association reported.

“These solid growth numbers across the range of major advertising categories provide further evidence of newspapers’ continued strength as a mass medium in the recovering economy,” said John F. Sturm, association president and CEO. “It’s clear that advertisers are recognizing newspapers as an effective national advertising medium, and we’re encouraged that after weathering a difficult ad economy for several years, the newspaper industry is seeing renewed growth in categories like ‘help wanted.'”

Jim Conaghan, association vice president of business analysis and research, added, “Increasing signs of a sustainable economic expansion are reflected in solid growth in all classified categories. In particular, as the expansion drives an improved labor environment, recruitment advertising is positioned to build on its solid first quarter gains.”

Newspaper ad expenditures for the first quarter of 2004 totaled $10.2 billion. Classified ad spending increased 4 percent to $3.6 billion, national ad spending increased 4.5 percent to $1.8 billion and retail spending rose 2.7 percent to $4.8 billion, the association reported. Automotive classified ads gained 2.6 percent to $1.2 billion over the first quarter of 2003, and recruitment classified advertising was at $968 million, up 3.9 percent over last year.

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Send tips or a letter to the editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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