I note this new data from the Newspaper Association of America
...total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 -- the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950.
The drop-off points to an economic slowdown on top of the secular challenges faced by the industry. The second worst decline in advertising revenue occurred in 2001 when it fell 9.0%.
Total advertising revenue in 2007 -- including online revenue -- decreased 7.9% to $45.3 billion compared to the prior year.
There are signs that online revenue is beginning to slow as well. Internet ad revenue in 2007 grew 18.8% to $3.2 billion compared to 2006. In 2006, online ad revenue had soared 31.4% to $2.6 billion. In 2005, it jumped 31.4% to $2 billion.
What's neglected here is the basic idea that advertising -- as it has traditionally been conceived -- is merely one of many possible direct and indirect elements in the complex and constantly changing process of convincing customers to buy what you have to sell for more than it cost you to make it.
To the degree that print advertising -- on paper, in electronic form or otherwise -- is less-than-effective compared to the alternatives (mascots, blimps, billboards, word-of-mouth, guerrilla tactics, etc.) it will fade. And as with any such sea-change transition -- long anticipated but still somehow shocking when it finally arrives -- it is much easier to say what is going away and to eulogize it than to say exactly why that is so or what (usually plural) is most likely displace it.
In a related vein, this piece, "Out of Print: The death and life of the American newspaper" in The New Yorker's March 31st edition is also worth perusing though perhaps not for those faithful stockholders with a tendency towards melancholy:
...trends in circulation and advertising––the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising––have created a palpable sense of doom. Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter. Few corporations have been punished on Wall Street the way those who dare to invest in the newspaper business have. The McClatchy Company, which was the only company to bid on the Knight Ridder chain when, in 2005, it was put on the auction block, has surrendered more than eighty per cent of its stock value since making the $6.5-billion purchase. Lee Enterprises’ stock is down by three-quarters since it bought out the Pulitzer chain, the same year. America’s most prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones. Rather than compete in an era of merciless transformation, the families that owned the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal sold off the majority of their holdings. The New York Times Company has seen its stock decline by fifty-four per cent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss coming in the past year; in late February, an analyst at Deutsche Bank recommended that clients sell off their Times stock. The Washington Post Company has avoided a similar fate only by rebranding itself an “education and media company”; its testing and prep company, Kaplan, now brings in at least half the company’s revenue.
Yes, that appeared as a single paragraph in the New Yorker piece -- more than a bit ironic for a publication pontificating over the doom of its peers as a generation of multi-tasking, ADD-addled information consumers come up.