Newspaper advertising revenue plunged 27 percent last year to its lowest level since 1986, according to figures released Wednesday, reflecting the toll of the recession and a media shift that’s driving more marketing dollars to the Internet. Newspapers sold USD 27.6bn worth of ads in 2009, a figure that includes both print and online revenue. That’s down from USD 37.8bn the year before, according to the Newspaper Association of America. The picture is even more grim after adjusting for inflation. The USD 27bn in revenue that newspapers received in 1986 would equal nearly USD 53bn in today’s dollars. Things did improve toward the end of 2009, raising hopes that the worst of the slump is over. Ad revenue in the final three months of the year fell 24 percent from a year earlier to USD 7.7bn – the smallest quarterly percentage decline of 2009. Although newspapers’ Web sites have offered a small but steadily growing revenue stream, even that was thrown into retreat by the recession. Online ad revenue fell almost 12 percent to USD 2.7bn last year after a 2 percent drop in 2008. The slump has hit other media as well, including magazines, broadcast television and even Internet titans such as Google Inc., which saw its breakneck revenue growth slow considerably. Most painful for newspapers has been the decline in classified advertising, an income source they are unlikely to lure back from cheap or free Web sites such as Craigslist. Where classifieds once amounted to as much as 40 percent of total ad revenue, they now account for just 22 percent.