In fact, publishers since 2005 have lost $26.7 billion in print advertising revenues while gaining only $1.2 billion in new digital revenue. Thus, the true ratio of print loss to digital gain is 22 to 1, not the 7 to 1 reported by Pew in March.
Here’s the math:
My analysis starts in 2005, the best year ever for newspaper ad sales, when combined print and digital revenues were $49.4 billion. Industry sales have fallen unrelentingly since then to $23.9 billion in 2011 – the lowest point since 1984, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
When you compare the industry’s sales performance from year to year since 2005 (as illustrated below), you see that print sales fall every time and that digital revenues advanced in four years but actually declined during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.
The net result is that $26.7 billion in print sales evaporated in the same six years that publishers netted $1.2 billion in new digital revenues.
The difference between my findings and the Pew conclusions is that Pew only looked at the performance of newspapers in the last two years, a period in which most publishers put more emphasis than ever on building digital revenues to offset their print losses.
While the long-overdue effort is welcome, publishers have a lot of ground to make up.
Though digital revenues at newspapers have advanced 9.1% since 2005, the total online advertising market grew by close to 60% in the same period, according to projections based on mid-2011 statistics published by the Internet Advertising Bureau.
Even though the final IAB numbers for 2011 have yet to be released, it is easy to see that newspapers have lots of lost lost ground to make up.