Newspaper, Magazine Ad Fortunes Continue To Decline

by , May 22, 2013, 5:59 PM
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The release of fourth-quarter figures for newspaper advertising and first-quarter figures for magazine ad pages earlier this month made it clear that the long decline of print advertising is going to continue -- and possibly even accelerate -- in coming years.
 
In 2012, total newspaper print ad revenues dipped 8.5% to $18.9 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America. That compares with a peak value of $47.4 billion in 2005, meaning that print advertising has suffered a precipitous 60% drop over just seven years, with 27 straight quarters of year-over-year declines.
 
While some of the steepest declines (from 2007-2010) could be attributed to economic woes, newspaper ad revenues were falling before the recession began in 2007. They have continued to fall steadily even as the economy has shown some modest improvement over the last few years.

News-paper-revenues-graph

The print ad declines also stand in contrast to overall growth in ad spending -- which rose 3% in the U.S. in 2012 according to Kantar, to around $139.5 billion; ZenithOptimedia estimated overall U.S. ad growth at 4.3% for the year.
 
The picture is not much better for magazines, which saw total ad pages sink 4.8% from 32,708 in the first quarter of 2011 to 31,137 in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. That marks the seventh straight quarter of year-over-year declines, wiping out the short-lived recovery enjoyed by the medium in 2010.

Taking a longer view, magazine ad pages tumbled from a total of 243,305 in 2005 to 150,699 in 2012, for a 38% decline over the last seven years.
 
With print ad revenues in freefall, newspaper and magazine publishers have struggled to build up their digital businesses, with mixed success. Digital advertising revenues remain a fairly small part of the overall newspaper business. 

In 2012, the NAA tallied $3.04 billion in digital ads, or just 11.8% of total revenues. What’s more, the growth rate for newspapers’ digital ad revenues has lagged online advertising in general, which grew 15% in 2012 according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, compared to a 10.9% increase for newspapers (and on a much larger base).
 
Digital circ revenues are a bright spot for newspaper publishers, who have rushed to implement online paywalls over the last year, but so far, circ revenue growth is nowhere near enough to offset continuing declines on the print side. Last year, total newspaper circulation revenues came to $10.45 billion, up almost $500 million from $9.99 billion in 2011. But total ad revenues (including digital) fell $1.73 billion over the same period.
 
It’s harder to judge the digital success of magazine publishers, since no industry organization is collecting ad or circ revenue figures. Some individual titles have reported great success, with digital ad revenues reportedly contributing over 50% of the total at magazines like Wired and Forbes.

However, results from individual (publicly traded) companies suggest that, like newspapers, digital advertising makes a relatively modest contribution to magazine publishers’ bottom line. On the circ front, the Alliance for Audited Media counted 7.9 million digital replica editions for U.S. magazines in the second half of 2012 -- or just 2.4% of total circulation.

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