At The Atlantic, senior editor Derek Thompson posted a graphical history of advertising revenue for the U.S. newspaper industry.
Between 1950 and 2000, aggregate annual display and classified revenuesgrew from about $20 billion to $64 billion. Since that peak, advertising revenues have fallen by two-thirds and are once again (an unadjusted) $20 billion. More than half of the fall-off has come in the last four years.
While digital is certainly a core part of the future, revenues derived from digital platforms continue to lag. The Center for Excellence in Journalism reports today that newspapers are losing $7 in print revenue for every $1 they gain in digital revenue.
It could well be that the future of magazine or book publishing has nothing to do with what happened to newspapers. But it’s sobering to look at the decline of newspaper advertising and think about the inflection points we might be missing.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to make the argument that competing on the cost of content alone is a mistake. That said, the best time to broaden revenue streams comes before you really need to do so.