September 19, 2012

The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling

The blogosphere has been blowing up recently with a new graphic showing the decline of newspaper advertising revenues, with as many different takes on what it could mean as there are political and economic bloggers.

One site, Business Insider, posted the graphic Monday afternoon at 4pm and has 338 Facebook likes, 446 Tweets, 130 LinkedIn shares and 52 Google+ postings.  What does it all means?  (cue the Double Rainbow video)

It’s a bit like Henny Penny running around screaming, “The Sky is falling!” to me.

As Business Insider points out, there have been many big newspaper companies going bust lately, and this graphic gives us some insight as to why.  According to the graphic, this year advertising revenues for newspapers are going to be below the 1950 revenues.  That’s right, print newspapers will be making less this year (adjusted for inflation) than they did 62 years ago.

When you add in online advertising (that tiny red line), that number rises a bit, but is nowhere near the peak of the year 2000, which was around $63.5 billion dollars.  One unclear thing for me with the “online advertising” is, do they mean just advertising with the big news agencies online arms? Or all online advertising?  I really hate unclear research, makes me start thinking someone is skewing the results to ….oh, I don’t know… frighten the public?

Journalism professor Jay Rosen from New York University made the observation that the peak year for print advertising was the year blogging software was introduced online.  Does that mean we have killed the newspapers? (Sings in my best Elmer Fudd voice, “Spear and Magic Helmet!”)

John Nolte at sees this as not only a triumph over “Old Media” in which we should push until ” the Washington Post, New York Times, L.A. Times, Boston Globe, and the rest cease to exist,” but also a triumph over control of the national narrative.  He crows that “New Media” (read that bloggers, online columnists, etc) is on the offense again Barack Obama and the corrupt left-wing shills who run big newspapers.

Now I don’t know about you, but half the people I know scream that all the media is “liberal” and half scream the media is “corrupt conservatives.”  Make up your minds, people!  Even while touting the New Media as “honest opinion” and “fight to force the truth,” Nolte is taking sides and promoting his own political agenda using this graphic. Since you so obviously have taken sides, Mr. Nolte, who’s truth and who’s opinion?

And here, I thought news was supposed to be objective, unbiased… fair even.  Maybe if I were to hazard an opinion about the loss of advertising revenues myself, it would be that advertisers are voting for that kind of reporting again in the only way that matters in America: with their dollar bills.

Economics professor Mark J. Perry from the University of Michigan and The American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. does the best job of “unbiased” reporting on this graphic that I’ve seen today on his blog, Carpe Diem.  He presents us with the facts, the numbers to back them up, and a couple different ways to “grasp” the information.

The facts: ” The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).  The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars.  Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual  amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950. “   

What I notice first off, is that this “end of the world” revenues for this year are ESTIMATED.  We don’t know for sure yet.

What we do know is that the advertising world doesn’t seem to be going under, so those billions of dollars are going somewhere if they aren’t going to print media.

What we also know is that the blogosphere is just as good at scare tactic reporting as the big media outlets, so you should do your own research, gather lots of information and opinions, and then decide for yourself what it means. The scientific method and a bit of critical freethinking is in order.

Image Credit: BirDiGoL / Shutterstock

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