The Bloody Edge Of Print Media: For Every Dollar Spent On Digital Ads, In 2011, Ten Dollars Lost On Print Ads

For whatever reason, the print industry refuses to listen to the facts around the revenue models they cling to or to modify the futile efforts they fail to execute profitably. According to the recently released 9th edition of the Pew Report on the state of advertising, “In 2011, losses in print advertising dollars outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1, a ratio even worse than in 2010. When circulation and advertising revenue are combined, the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000.”

The report points to the acquisitions of content providers like Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Reuters, respectively, by the big hot tech giants, like Facebook and Google, and the attempts by such laggards like AOL to try to pin their future on the likes of Huffington Post. The newspaper industry alone has shrunk 43% since 2000 and with classified ads moving online, almost exclusively, the hope for any change to the contrary is wishful thinking by a dinosaur industry. The advent of the smart phone, which now is found in more than 40% of most American’s pockets, and which threatens print models further, may be the final nail in the coffin. Even the U.S. Postal System looks doomed as snail mail is evaporated by online communications and transactions.

The report claims that while most “traditional” news operations have launched some form of online news presence, some way to collect fees for the content they produce, none are successful. Those who know, see the forest for the trees and understand that folks who are online aren’t enticed to pay for content that is available, in some form, elsewhere. The problem is that they waited too long, and they never understood what was happening. Try to engage ina NYTimes discussion and it can take three days to get your opinion posted; try to engage with the Wall Street Journal, and you may find yourself getting hacked.

Here in the Bay Area we have seen how local news rags have simply imploded and the reasons people once supported them are gone. No more great columns or writers, no more unique content and no hope for change. The NYTimes is bleeding money big time and I can’t think of a single reason it will stop. Here is perhaps the biggest tell: “Among the top news websites, there is little use of the digital advertising that is expected to grow most rapidly, so-called “smart,” or targeted, advertising. So far, news organizations are mainly using the popular networking platform, Twitter, to push out their own content rather than to engage with audiences, solicit information or share information they themselves did not produce.”
However, on the other side, which Pew covers rather obtusely, are the independents and bloggers- social media. Writers haven’t disappeared. They simply are learning they can live without the newspapers and their inability to engage with the new media and the New Economy. According to Pew, while news organizations are being swallowed up by the big techs, and while they are reconciled to Twitter to promote their articles, “Social media are important but not overwhelming drivers of news, at least not yet.” Apparently, they missed the fact that Facebook and Twitter may be the two most important IPO’s to come down the pike since Google. Also, they apparently missed the Arab Spring and the importance of social media in driving change around the world. Here is their rendering of their findings: “Some 133 million Americans, or 54% of the online U.S. population, are now active users on Facebook (out of 850 million monthly active users globally).2 They also spend an average of seven hours there a month, 14 times the amount of time people spend on average on the most popular news sites.3 And the number of Twitter users grew 32% last year to around 24 million active users in the U.S. (500 million total accounts worldwide), the company reports. But the notion that large percentages of Americans now get their news mainly from recommendations from friends does not hold up, according to survey data released here. No more than 10% of digital news consumers follow news recommendations from Facebook or Twitter “very often,” the new survey finds.”

That makes no sense unless you are measuring the results based on a wish list. Just because the folks they asked said they don’t follow news recommended from friends, doesn’t make any sense. Why would the social media be growing and their discussion multiplying if they don’t follow the stories offered there? Why would news organizations that this report claims uses Twitter, if it didn’t work?
Pew misses the mark by not following obvious conclusions like the death of the major networks. Does anyone think that NBC, CBS and ABC along with Fox aren’t baffled about how they plan to sell TV time in the coming years? Does anyone think that radio is eager to contemplate their future based on satellite radio along with autos with Internet standard?

Finally, their “findings” issued further contradicted their article. “The year 2011 was a mixed one economically for the news media. Ad dollars followed the audiences to the web, and a stable business model helped cable television. But much of the legacy media suffered revenue declines.” I’m not sure who superimposed their senseless rendition of these facts we have all contemplated and predicted years ago, but it is clear that Pew is not playing with the whole deck and clarity is not a part of their analysis. Let us know where you see news and media moving in the next year and let’s get some predictions so we can see how smart our audience is over that time. I’d bet we can come up with more accurate predictions than Pew has done.

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