Is Search Maturing?

MediaPost kicked off the Search Insider Summit at Captiva, Fla., Thursday. I had a chance to speak with Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman and co-founder, who pointed to the recent 2009 data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau to provide perspective on industry trends that began to emerge in the first quarter of 2010. "In the fourth quarter search only grew 4% from a year ago, while display grew 15%," he says. "Spending on display ads, for some reason, grew four times faster than search, which raises interesting questions on the types of advertisers that are spending money."

Search revenue rose 4% to $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to IAB. The industry group reported display-related advertising--banner, rich media, video and sponsorship--accounted for $2.3 billion or 37% of total revenue during the quarter of 2009, up nearly 15% from the $2 billion, or 33%, reported in the year-ago quarter.

The advertising industry went through the recession toward the end of 2008 and through 2009. Ad spending slowed. During this time display and search ads were basically flat, Fulgoni says. "Then companies started spending more on advertising as the economy began to improve, but we came out on the other side of the downturn to see display out sell search," he says. "It struck me as odd because search had been growing faster."

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