Alt-Weekly National Ad Sales Rebound

Still not matching 2001 levels

National ad sales have started to rebound as a near-devastating first quarter comes to a close.

Alternative Weekly Network (AWN), a cooperative ad network serving about 160 papers, has projected a 37 percent first-quarter drop from the same period last year. While those numbers aren’t great, they’re better than what was expected just a month ago.

“There was so little revenue in January, it was looking pretty bleak,” says AWN Executive Director Mark Hanzlik.

The first five weeks of 2002 witnessed a 73 percent plummet for AWN compared to the same period in 2001, so a 37 percent decrease for the quarter as a whole is a blessing, Hanzlik says, adding that figures for March alone are even more heartening.

March 2002, with still a week to go, is down 10 percent from AWN’s 2001 March sales.

“We’ve seen the return of some of our existing categories,” he says, citing a considerable return for tobacco advertising, which was a culprit in the early decline.

Michele Laven, president and COO of New Times and the Ruxton Group, which serves 29 papers, says national sales have been turning around for Ruxton as well, but without huge rebounds.

“We are not blowing away last year’s numbers,” she says. “In fact, this time last year we were still doing very well from a national standpoint, so we are not catching ourselves there.”

Tobacco, telecommunications and liquor have begun to come back at Ruxton, Laven says. She declines to cite specific figures and percentages, saying that it would be premature to rely on the numbers right now.

“I don’t think we’ll really be beating our numbers (from last year) until after November,” she says.

Seth Wharton is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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