Newspaper Industry Ad Revenue at 1965 Levels

August 19th, 2009

I think the big news today is from a blog entry of this title on the Columbia Journalism Review website (courtesy Bob Sacks). Gosh isn’t it great when a smart person really delves into the numbers to pull out the true story?

As Ryan Chittum explains:

So I went back through the Newspaper Association of America’s data on newspaper-industry revenue, which goes back to 1950, to see what year we’re actually even with now. It’s ugly: You have to go back to 1965 to find a year with revenue lower in 2009 dollars than what this year is projected to be. That year, the industry took in $4.42 billion, which works out to $30.22 billion in current dollars. The industry can only hope this year hits 1966 levels, which work out to $32.4 billion in real dollars.

The picture as he details the stats is grim, more grim than I’ve seen detailed anywhere else. Here’s the chart:


Chittum comments about the chart:

What stands out immediately to me looking at real dollars (which are all that really matter), is that the peak of the last recovery, in 2004, with $55 billion, never got close to the peak of the previous recovery, 2000—when real ad revenues hit $60.9 billion. To make matters worse, the 2002-2004 recovery never reached the peak of two recoveries ago, in 1988, when real ad dollars hit $56.8 billion. Recall, this year ads are projected at just $31.6 billion—if they’re lucky—a 44 percent decline from twenty-one years ago.

That folks, is secular decline, and the vast majority of those dollars are not coming back.

Mr Chittum concludes:

Newspapers need a rip-roaring recovery to recover a small portion of the ground they’ve lost, and I doubt they’re going to get it.

What’s next?