There’s a lot of irony in the latest report on World Press Trends from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Sure, there’s the expected:
- newspaper advertising’s 25% global decline over the past five years, with North America driving nearly three quarters of that drop
- digital news’ growth and struggle to monetize
- television continued dominance, with 40% of the world’s advertising
- search’s dominance of internet ad revenue at 58%
But some of their findings were not so expected. Like how newspapers may be down and yet they’re still pretty pervasive. Globally, they amount to a 200 billion dollar annual industry and domestically, with ad revenues at $96 Billion in 2011, they represent 20% of the overall ad market. The biggest hit on newspapers has been the drop in classified revenues, which has dropped 65% in five years.
The real lesson here is that newspapers remain a viable media platform, particularly for an older, more educated audience. And unlike search, they can actually help you build a brand.
Besides, crosswords stink on an iPad.
Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
A good friend forwarded this link to a fascinating blog post by Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody. It is longish, but if you are at all interested in the changing agency landscape, Shirky’s insights on these waning days of newspapers provide a valuable analogy to the challenges advertising currently faces. Or doesn’t.
Or Perhaps We Should Find Another Way Across
Shirky posits that while newspapers clearly saw the internet coming well over a decade ago, they didn’t respond by rethinking and reinventing their product along new paths but rather tried to fabricate fanciful profit models rooted in the old habits, even though those old habits were already changing and would most likely accelerate.
Shirky makes many fascinating points (and reading the following excerpt does not excuse you from reading his original post) but I found this the most trenchant for our current situation:
“When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.”
I won’t pretend I have the answer to the agency world’s challenges…yet. But I think we can draw some pretty helpful analogies between the advertising and newspaper industries, and hopefully learn some lessons from their struggles. And so to prepare for advertising’s future, I will force myself to think some unthinkable thoughts.
And I do not think of myself as Chicken Little, because I don’t think the sky is falling.
Actually, it could be opening up…
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79