Commentary

How Publishers Can Find Pockets Of Growth Amid Drop In Ad Spending

Many media channels can expect a banner year in 2020. The Summer Olympics and the presidential election will help drive ad spending to new records. Unfortunately, newspapers and magazines won't participate in that growth without developing their digital outlets.

Magazine ad revenue will slump 9.7% this year to $9.8 billion, a steeper decline than the 9.1% drop to $11.8 billion for newspapers, according to estimatesconsulting firm Winterberry Group published last week.

The forecast shouldn't surprise anyone in the publishing industry, following a year of consolidation, widespread job cuts and dozens of stories about the threat of "news deserts." The trends are disheartening, but there are some pockets of opportunity for publishers, as the Winterberry report also suggests.

U.S. digital ad spending will expand by about 15% to $166.4 billion this year. It is becoming more fragmented as newer categories such as influencer marketing and digital video carve out a bigger share.

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While search and paid social will be the biggest categories, publishers can find room for growth in display ads and possibly in digital audio formats like podcasts.

Winterberry forecasts that digital audio advertising will expand by 15% to $3.4 billion, a market that publishers are well positioned to dominate by repurposing written content as spoken-word audio.

Even in the realm of offline advertising, publishers can find growth in experiential marketing and sponsorships of live events, where spending is forecast to grow by 3.1% to $48.5 billion, making it the second-biggest category after linear TV.

Aside from offline and online advertising, publishers can build their revenue from subscriptions, paywalls, licensing and affiliate fees from online marketplaces. Building those businesses requires specialized expertise, but it can be done.

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