Carpe Diem

Free-fall: Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising revenue in 2012 was lower than in 1950


The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) released its annual report today on American newspaper revenue, and the chart above displays updated advertising revenue data from the report through 2012.

The blue line in the chart above shows the total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the three categories national, retail, and classified) based on annual data from 1950 to 2012. The annual advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation using the CPI, and appear in the chart as billions of constant 2012 dollars. Newspaper print advertising revenues of $18.9 billion in 2012 fell to the lowest annual level of print advertising since the NAA started tracking industry data in 1950. In 2012 dollars, advertising revenues last year were below the $19.75 billion spent in 1950, 62 years ago.

The decline in print newspaper advertising to a 62-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning. Print ad revenues fell by almost 50% in just the last four years, from $37 billion in 2008 to less than $19 billion last year; and by 66% over the last decade, from $56.3 billion in 2002.

Here’s another perspective: It took 50 years for annual newspaper print ad revenue to gradually increase from $20 billion in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $65 billion in 2000, and then it took only 12 years to go from $65 billion back to less than $19 billion in 2012!

Even when online advertising is added to print ad revenue (see red line in chart), the combined total spending for print and online advertising last year was still only about $22.3 billion, which is the lowest amount of annual ad revenue since 1953, when $22.5 billion was spent on print advertising. The introduction of online advertising in 2003 has helped to increase total ad revenues (print + online) a little bit, but online advertising has remained flat at about $3 billion per year for the last six years, and was actually lower last year ($3.37 billion) than in 2007 ($3.5 billion in 2012 dollars).

Economic Lesson: The dramatic decline in newspaper ad revenues has to be one of the most significant Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction in recent years. And it’s not over. One recent special report from IBISWorld on “Dying Industries” identified newspaper publishing as one of ten industries that may be on the verge of extinction in the United States.

HT: Sprewell

31 thoughts on “Free-fall: Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising revenue in 2012 was lower than in 1950

    • agreed let em all burn .. for all the lies and disinformation they have fed us on a daily basis for all those years of deception, corporatist ranting and hiding the truth..

      “the illegal we do immediately, it’s the unconstitutional that takes more time” Henry Kissinger

      “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist” Dwight D. Eisenhower

  1. Economic lesson for me: It’s possible that the rise of the newspapers had less to do with the business genius of those who ran them than it did with the economics of the situations. Sure the business genius might have made one paper more successful than another, but overall the newspaper business model was driven by technology, not by the acumen of those in the newspaper business itself.

    Now the model has changed and no amount of genius will save the newspaper from death as a primary vehicle of news and opinion. Something to reflect upon when we laud those who are at the top of the world now. If Bill Gates had chosen computers 30 yeras later than he did, he wouldn’t have had the chance to be Bill Gates, since someone else would have taken up that role while he was growing up.

    • But then there is the WSJ, growing and thriving despite all the structural changes in the industry.

      Maybe they are not so structural after all. maybe the folks are just tired of the constant left wing editorializing on every page.

  2. The PC industry isn’t really dying but transforming. There is a lot of hubbub around tablets and smartphones but ultimately they are information consumption not creation devices. You still need a laptop or desktop to get actual work done. Information workers want the speed of an actual PC and a large screen. Not to mention now even the bloated operating systems of today cannot seem to kill the performance of a computer built in the last 5 years so upgrade cycles are now in the 5+ year range for many businesses and individuals. Win7/8 can still run on a dual- or quad-core 2-4GB PC that is 4-5 years old, easily. Likewise with old Macbooks.

  3. up next:

    TV broadcasters.

    content is valuable. create “game of thrones” and people will pay to watch it. but paying a broadcaster for a channel and access? nope.

    that will go away. yet another middleman disintermediated by the internet.

    i am getting ready to head down to the NAB (national association of broadcasters) tradeshow. one of the big topics this year is the “zero TV household”. this does not mean you do not own a tv, it means that you do not subscribe to cable, sat tv, or use broadcast.

    i am a ZTVH. between roku, ps2, etc, i have zero need for cable or sat tv. (esp since you can get nfl season ticket on ps2)

    the very idea of waiting until a show is “on” to watch it and putting up with commercials seems ridiculous to me.

    channels are a bad way to watch tv. a kid born today will probably never even understand what a channel is.

    the smart guys like hbo and mtv are busily creating distinct propriety content and will prosper in this new world. the guys with no real content creation capability are going to die though. distribution will get less and less valuable every day.

    • Exactly right, which is why I have to laugh when dummies like youtube try to recreate “channels” online. :) The only reason TV and movies have survived this long is because the average TV show or movie packs much more information than a blog post or song, ie video ranges from 300 MB to 5 GBs per show or movie, while a blog post or mp3 is literally a thousand times smaller. As internet connections keep getting faster, the death knell for TV and movie companies sounds louder and louder.

      • why movie companies?

        if you create content that people want to see, they will pay you for it whether it be through a movie ticket, ppv rental, disc purchase, or streaming through amazon or netflix.

        are you trying to argue that the you tube crowd will create content as compelling as dreamworks animation studios or pixar?

        that seems unlikely.


        i think you may be a bit off on size. a blu ray is in the 20-30gb range. 3d content is even bigger. some are pushing 50gb.

        • The youtube crowd won’t but somebody online will. The entire trend online is towards personalized, niche content, against the previous trend of mass, broadcast content. Movies don’t survive that. Hence the current push to 3D and multi-star movies, they’re trying to find a couple last gimmicks to put asses in theater seats.

          I’m well aware that Blu-ray can hold another order of magnitude of information: I was using the numbers that are most common on piracy sites, where millions of people regularly download all kinds of video. They don’t tend to use the full Blu-ray files because they’re too big and the quality is good enough when you compress a movie down to 5-10 GBs.

  4. Journalism is dead at the AP and in the print media generally. Let the Gray Lady lead the way, and may the WAPO follow soon thereafter.

    • “If they actually reported the news they would be in much better shape.”

      Maybe a little, but my guess is that technology has doomed them regardless of the job they do. But if they actually reported the news, I might mourn them. As it is . . . .

  5. I quit my paper/television subscriptions in ’08′ because I was fed up with the constant leftist propaganda that permeated the mediums.

  6. If I remember correctly, the bulk of newspaper income is derived from classified ads rather than ad space sprinkled throughout the paper. Perhaps the decline in ad revenue is not so much due to the general public’s dissatisfaction with content as it is people going to Craig’s List or Monster to hawk their wares or jobs.

  7. Many of us gave up on print because of the liberal slant on all news and in some cases lack of real news. News isn’t reported any more, it is editorialized!

  8. The real problem is not that the MSM is Progressive. (it is Progressive, but that’s not the problem.) The problem is that the MSM is partisan. Partisan viewpoints (Republicans are always wrong, Democrats are always right) are basically propaganda, and propaganda is boring.

    It is a waste of time for anyone, even Progressives, to read the MSM because you already know how the story is going to turn out. NEWS FLASH: Democrats GOOD, Republicans BAD. Why should anyone waste their time reading a story if they already know the ending?

    If the MSM wants to survive they have to become interesting. To become interesting they can keep the left-wing ideology, but they have to drop the Democrat-party partisanship.

  9. When I want to read Democratic Propaganda, I’ll buy the local Baltimore Sun (NOT!). I stopped buying a newspaper when I moved to Baltimore, MD in 2004. When I lived in Metro-Detroit, I had a sub to the evening paper, The News.

    But, with the blatant liberal slant of the Sun…I’ll take my news online. It’s free…OR…I’ll pay for a newsfeed (I subscribe to two) at least they have a neutral voice.

    If Fox really wanted to destroy ABC/NBC/CBS evening news…they’d start requiring all of their affiliates take The Special Report w/Bret Baier. It’s unfortunate that they don’t.

  10. Please deflate using a price index other than the CPI. The CPI overstates inflation, most egregiously in the 1950-1990 period. If you would deflate by a lower inflation number then things would not look so bad.

  11. Newspapers are still pretty useful if you have a puppy or a bird in a cage. Fitting use for them too considering your pet is going to deposit on them what they’re already filled with.

  12. No one will read a rag that continually lies and/or distorts the truth. Most print belongs in the bottom of a birdcage

  13. Soon, if not already, the myriad Progessive-Marxist “Reporters” will soon have only the Federal Government Propaganda Ministries to find employment.

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