Global Ad Revenues Equal for Social Media and Newspapers by 2019

According to a new report by advertising agency Zenith, by 2019 the overall amount spent on ad space in newspapers globally will be all but equivalent to that which is spent by advertisers on social media platforms. The convergence will be facilitated by the exacerbation of the dire straits in which newspapers find themselves, alongside an acceleration of the comparative boom in ad growth currently being seen by social media companies; which are set to experience a 72% rise in income from adverts over the next three years. We've known for a long time that internet news means the decline of print media and, indeed, that the general diversion of capital from physical spheres to digital ones means it's increasingly challenging to succeed when you're offline. Now, however, we have more of a grasp on just how soon the scales are going to tip - most likely forever, by the by.

Let's begin with Facebook. In April, the company reported stunning advertising revenues of $5.2 billion for January through March; a 57% jump from the end of 2015. In the first quarter of 2015, its user base grew from 1.44 billion to 1.65 billion (that figure now stands at 1.79 billion). Even without the rapid growth (which is, admittedly, slowing), the sheer number of people using the site implies a whole raft of untapped potential for advertisers; and Facebook's shift to mobile (the ads for which, being more expensive, accounted for 80% of that first-quarter revenue) means a new channel through which advertisers can shovel Facebook their cash. As company COO Sherly Sandberg claimed earlier this year, 'Businesses are no longer asking if they should market on mobile, they're asking how.' The story, indeed, is similar all over. 

So, as we knew, the advertising boom for social media sites is in full-swing.

Meanwhile, as we also knew, newspapers are in decline: largely due to their lack of advertising revenue. The Zenith report suggests that whilst ad revenue in 2019 for social media sites will be a total of $50.2bn, that for newspapers will have fallen to just $50.7bn. Today, in fact, the latter is plummeting faster than before. As the Wall St Journal reported in October, 'global spending on newspaper print ads is expected to decline 8.7% to $52.6bn in 2016...the biggest drop since the recession, when world-wide spending plummeted 13.7% in 2009.' The decline of advertising, which itself is the financial bedrock of most print media, is getting worse as time goes by. 

Still, we shouldn't take this to mean that Facebook - or even social media in general - has killed newspapers. Even though Facebook is now a news source for many, the damage has probably been done by the internet in general. As Danish (or global) blogger Thomas Baekdal suggests, the wider problem is probably just the proliferation of search engines like Google - which, for most people, are synonymous with internet use. So, digital killed the printed cat; not Mark Zuckerberg.

The convergence of the two revenue projections in Zenith's report reveals to us two things overall. One, it describes, as we already knew, how newspapers are continuing to struggle whilst digital platforms flourish; and two, it provides us once again the sobering news, more accurately than before, that times are a-changin' indeed very quickly.

Oh, and three, that perhaps there's irony in the fact that we found this entirely online.

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