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With total ad sales sliding 5.1% in the third quarter of this year, newspapers have set what must be some sort of record in the annals of American business by having their primary revenue stream fall for 24 quarters in a row.

In 72 months of unremitting declines, the industry’s consolidated advertising sales have plunged from an all-time high of $49.4 billion in 2005 to what I estimate will be no better than $22.5 billion in 2012. The year-end revenue projection is based on historic trends.

It is a testimony to the legendarily high operating margins of the industry and the considerable cost-slashing skills of contemporary publishers that nearly all the newspapers in business in mid-2006, when the trouble began, are still plugging along today.

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Reflections of a Newsosaur: Online sales are flat-lining at newspapers (external - login to view)