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85 years of US advertising

There’s an argument out that there this pandemic isn’t necessarily going to precipitate new changes, it’s simply going to accelerate changes that were already underway. Benedict Evans begins to illustrate this point in a recent blog post called, COVID and cascading collapses.

In it, he starts by looking at US print advertising revenue. In the first decade or so of the consumer internet, newspapers and magazines actually managed to hold their own. It’s not until after 2008 that they really start to fall off and lose significant market share to internet advertising (most of which belongs to Google and Facebook).

Intuitively this makes sense. During a crisis, budgets invariably get cut. And then when the market comes back, as it always does, you have people actually thinking about where those dollars should be spent: “Hey, maybe we should put some more money toward that Facebook thing.” It’s a reset moment.

The other interesting thing about the decline of print advertising is that if look at a longer time horizon — say 85 years, as Benedict did — you can see that its share has been declining for a very long time thanks to television. Of course, now television is changing. US consumers are “cord-cutting” faster than they’re moving to buy things online.

Cascading collapses, as he calls it.

1 Comment so far

  1. AM

    The sad part about this is that the adtech industry is rotten to the core and more than 50% of advertising dollars are untraceable and susceptible to all kinds of unverifiable fraud. Advertisers are literally pissing money away with no way to know what happens to it. Bob Hoffman has been blowing the whistle for years about this lack of transparency.

    At least with print, TV and radio, the ad buys were verifiable to a large extent. With most the internet traffic generated by bots, who knows what’s happening? The big question is what’s gonna happen once most of advertising dollars go to the internet and people realize the extent of the scam?


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