Australian advertisers are catching up online.  Great stats.

Quoted in the Wiliam Reading Room blog, from Sydney, MediaCom CEO Anne Parsons predicted recently that total ad spending in Australia will rise by as much as 4% in 2006, with newspaper and free-to-air television growing by no more than 3%.

Commenting on these last two categories, Ms. Parsons said "Compared to pay TV and the Internet, they are not happening things."

As in the US and worldwide, advertising spending in Australia is moving away from television and newspapers and onto the Internet.

Merrill Lynch forecast in November last year that the Internet will be Australia’s fastest-growing growing channel, with a 35% increase in advertising revenues this year.

As of the end of 2005, the Audit Bureau of Verification Services (ABVS) reported that spending on online advertising in Australia reached A$620 million (US$473 million).

For the first quarter of 2006, the ABVS reports that the Australian online advertising market grew by 65% over the same quarter in 2005 to reach a total of A$195 million — the first positive growth for a first quarter since 2003.

General advertising accounted for 29.5% of total online ad expenditure, classifieds 31.8% and search and directories 38.7%.

Total revenues for general advertising grew by 69% in the first quarter of 2006, compared with the first quarter of 2005, reach a toal of $57.5 million, classifieds were up 47.6% to $62 million and search and directories increased 79.8% to $75.5 million.