Kirk Cheyfitz
Kirk Cheyfitz
CEO & Chief Editorial Officer

Tracking the Coming Media Armageddon

red-arrow-downWe recently invested a few moments reflecting soberly on a small table of data in The eMarketer Daily from December 3rd. All of us at post-advertising h.q. invite you to do the same (and not just because the numbers support what we’ve been saying for a while).

The table shows US advertising spending from 2006 through 2010, broken down by major categories of (known) media. The headline is that traditional, ad-supported media are falling to pieces while non-traditional, content-driven marketing is on the rise. But the sub-head is even more interesting: overall ad spending is stagnating and, we maintain, beginning to fall. That’s something we have long predicted as a consequence of the post-advertising age. Now it appears to be happening.

The global depression is accelerating this macro-trend, but it isn’t the driving reason. What’s happening is that the BIG categories of traditional ad spending are falling off a cliff while much smaller categories of non-traditional advertising are rising like rockets. Even though the growth categories are growing really, really fast, they are not massive enough to offset the shrinkage in the big, traditional categories.

As a result, according to the folks who put these numbers together*, total US ad spending over the five-year period from 2006 through 2010 will rise by a total of — brace yourself — two-tenths of one percent. Which is close enough to zero for our purposes.

Spending on almost every major traditional medium is falling fast. Newspaper ads plummet 37%+ over the period. Spot local and national TV drops 17.5%. Spending on broadcast TV network commercials drops 6.9%. Traditional radio skydives 21%+. (In conducting this exercise, one quickly runs out of verbs meaning “to go down rapidly.”) Consumer magazines free-fall 23%. And so on.

The only major media that go up (as you guessed already) are Internet marketing of all sorts (+79.8%) and (maybe this is a surprise) so-called custom publishing (+26.1%).

The fact that content-driven marketing in all channels is gradually replacing traditional TV and print ads is hardly shocking news to followers of post-advertising. But our focus on marketing’s future sometimes obscures how deeply these seismic shifts in ad spending will affect the future of media. Inevitably, as audiences shun ads and marketers begin to shun them, too, the media that lived on them will begin to wither.

Layoffs in the newspaper, magazine publishing and broadcasting industries are now making news as often as job cuts in financial services, manufacturing, consumer goods and retail. Again, much of this just blends into the general gloom and angst of the times, but we believe the widespread misery is masking the underlying disintegration of the ad-supported media. The hunt for a new business model has been in full swing in newspapers for quite a while. Now that hunt is spreading to TV and magazines.

We became so obsessed with our thoughts about the end of ad-supported media that that we created our own spreadsheet to calculate percentage growth and shrinkage in every category of ad spending. Feel free to download it and play with the numbers yourself. Calculating the exact date of the coming Media Armageddon is a game for all ages!

*The eMarketer Daily says its source is “Jack Myers Media Business Report, ‘Advertising and Marketing Investment Forecast 2008-2010’, provided to eMarketer.com Oct 14, 2008.”

Image of red arrow by Jarke on wikimedia.