Online ad spending in February fell 5 percent from spending in January, the first drop since August 2000, a survey by tracking firm AdZone Interactive Inc. reported.
About $1.77 billion was spent for online advertising last month, compared with $1.86 billion in January, AdZone said.
“The slowdown in overall Web spending is a clear indication that advertisers are more careful now than ever before with their ad dollars,” said John Cardona, president of AdZone Interactive, New York.
Amazon.com spent $31.3 million last month, tops among Internet marketers. Amazon spent $16.8 million in January. The e-tailer spent another $14.8 million last month marketing its book search engine, AdZone reported.
America Online was second, spending $21 million on its customer acquisition campaign, which offered up to 700 hours of free Internet access during the first month of subscription. AOL also spent $15.3 million marketing its Web television offering.
BarnesAndNoble.com spent $20.2 million marketing its Web site and another $13.1 million marketing its bookstore.
AOL remained the most-sought-after advertising venue, as AOL.com took in $89.3 million last month. Yahoo.com and espn.go.com were second and third, with ad revenues of $50.7 million and $37 million, respectively.
EBay.com, msn.com and Freelotto.com each took in more than $34 million. Leftover Super Bowl hype kept NFL.com in the top 10 with $16.8 million in ad revenues, AdZone said.
The company tracks ad revenue and expenditures on banners, text ads, keywords, links, buttons, pop-ups and interstitials. It claims to account for 95 percent of all Internet advertising by measuring the top 2,500 Web sites.
Banners remained the most widely used online ad format, though interstitials and pop-ups are gaining popularity, Cardona said.
Several factors have contributed to the softening and now deflating online ad market, AdZone reported.
“Web sites are discounting heavily to advertisers,” Cardona said. “On top of that, there are a lot of dot-com advertisers that went out of business.”
Many dot-com advertisers spent heavily on all forms of advertising to try to build their brands quickly, and this is less prevalent now. Many of these bankrupt dot-com advertisers left unpaid ad bills behind, Cardona said.