Newspaper Industry Ad Revenue at 1965 Levels Print E-mail
Written by Jon Robinson   
Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thad McIlroyPrintAction columnist Thad McIlroy dissects an article produced by the Columbia Journalism Review that analyzes 45 years of data to understand the current state of newspaper adverstisement expenditures and the rough road ahead.

By Thad McIlroy

I think the big news today [August 19] is from a blog entry of this title on the Columbia Journalism Review website (courtesy Bob Sacks). Gosh isn’t it great when a smart person really delves into the numbers to pull out the true story?

As author Ryan Chittum explains:
 "So I went back through the Newspaper Association of America’s data on newspaper-industry revenue, which goes back to 1950, to see what year we’re actually even with now. It’s ugly: You have to go back to 1965 to find a year with revenue lower in 2009 dollars than what this year is projected to be. That year, the industry took in $4.42 billion, which works out to $30.22 billion in current dollars. The industry can only hope this year hits 1966 levels, which work out to $32.4 billion in real dollars."

The picture as he details the stats is grim; more grim than I’ve seen detailed anywhere else. Here’s the chart:

NAA newspaper ad spend

Chittum comments about the chart: "What stands out immediately to me looking at real dollars (which are all that really matter), is that the peak of the last recovery, in 2004, with $55 billion, never got close to the peak of the previous recovery, 2000—when real ad revenues hit $60.9 billion. To make matters worse, the 2002-2004 recovery never reached the peak of two recoveries ago, in 1988, when real ad dollars hit $56.8 billion. Recall, this year ads are projected at just $31.6 billion—if they’re lucky—a 44 percent decline from twenty-one years ago."

That folks, is secular decline, and the vast majority of those dollars are not coming back.

Mr Chittum concludes: "Newspapers need a rip-roaring recovery to recover a small portion of the ground they’ve lost, and I doubt they’re going to get it."

What’s next?


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