Saturday, March 05, 2005

Tail wags dog in newspaper ad sales

The vernal influx of yearend data illustrates how significantly online advertising is shoring up the desultory sales of the newspaper industry.

The good news is that online newspaper advertising grew at an average rate of 26.7% in 2004, according to the Newspaper Association of America, a trade group. The bad news is that the $1.5 billion in online advertising represented a scant 3% of the industry's over-all ad sales of $48.2 billion.

The aggregate gain of 4.5% in newspaper ad sales in 2004 falls well below the average 6.3% growth for all national media, as illustrated in the table below. For the record, this gives newspapers a bit better than an 18% share of all ad expendutures in the U.S. vs. 21% share as recently as 2000.

Because every publisher counts beans in its own way, it is hard to pin down the impact of online advertising on a given company's top line. But John Janedis at Banc of America Securities determined that nearly half of the 3.1% increase in Knight-Ridder's $2.35 billion in ad revenues came from online sales. If you subtract online revenues, therefore, KNI's ad sales grew by only 1.7% in 2004.

Elsewhere in the '04 ad wars, the biggest year-over-year percentage gain, predictably, was recorded in online advertising, where sales climbed 32% to an estimated $9.6 billion, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, a trade organization.

As illustrated in the table below, which is based mostly on data from Nielsen Media Research, the average sales increase across all ad categories was 6.3%, making for aggregate U.S. ad sales of $260 billion.

Respectable double-digit gains last year were notched, natch, by broadcast and cable television, the usual beneficiaries of the quadrennial spectacles known as the Olympics and the U.S. presidential election. Above-average increases were achieved in outdoor advertising and national magazines.

Below-average performance was recorded by spot radio and TV, Advo-type coupon operations and, as previously discussed, newspapers, where it looks like the tail really is starting to wag the dog.


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