The predicted death of newspapers is often blamed on the internet, but many miss the true online culprit. The migration of willing-to-pay subscribers to online publications is nothing compared to the real monetary losses from the movement of advertisements to the Web, particularly classified ads. In recent years, more and more Americans have gone online for such ads. Currently, about half (49%) of internet users say they have ever used online classified websites, up from 22% in 2005. And online Americans are visiting these ad sites more frequently. On any given day about a tenth of internet users (9%) visit online classified sites, up from 4% in 2005. The leading online classified advertiser is the free, user-generated website Craigslist, which had 42.2 million unique visitors in the month of March. With competition from a free outlet for classified advertising, newspapers have seen a precipitous drop in ad revenue over the past few years. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.