The vast bulk of newspapers and magazines exist and continue to exist because advertisers are willing to pay to use them to place advertisements. Up until the early 90s the relative spend by advertisers was curving up as it had been for 60 years previous; which was a good thing for newspapers and magazines. Also production costs were trending down because of the adoption of more and more technology into the pre-press phase of newspaper and magazine production.
But then in the mid 90s the relative advertising spend flattened out and remained flat for about five years up until year 2000. At the time this did not overly worry most newspaper and magazine publishing houses. They were still making useful profits. And they were quick to point out that everything is cyclic and that they expected the advertising spend to start trending up again—better times would return.
Sadly this is not what happened.
Between 2000 and 2009 in the USA the advertising spend for newspapers and magazines plummeted by a staggering 41 percent. During this period, according to MediaFinder.com, 428 newspapers and magazines folded across the USA and Canada.
What happened? Did businesses stop advertising?
No. But they moved huge amounts of their advertising budgets away from newspapers and magazines. They put a little more into television (about 4 percent) and the rest into advertising on the Web. There seems to be no end to this trend with forecasts of between 30 and 60 percent of the remaining newspaper and magazine advertising spend being moved to the Web by 2015.
In conjunction with this people are buying less newspapers and magazines. The results of polls taken by newspapers and magazines in the 90s—which indicated that most people would not be happy with getting their news and information via the Internet—have proven to be wrong. Recent polls clearly show that people are now much more relaxed about using the Internet for news and views than they were in the mid-90s. In fact significant numbers of people now user the Web exclusively for news and views and ticked the box “I purchased less than one newspaper or magazine per month over the last six months”.
So, where does the merging of these two effects, the drying up of advertising dollars and people being less dependant on them, leave newspapers and magazines?
It is an interesting question. I will have to look around on the Web to see if I can find some answers—or I could buy a paper and see if the answer is in there.