Meeker says print advertising is down, but should publishers still be terrified?

Print media captures 6 percent of consumers' time but 23 percent of ad spending in 2012, venture capitalist Mary Meeker said in her much-anticipated 2013 Internet Trends report:

Last year Jeff Sonderman wrote that her 2012 chart on this same subject, which looked at time spent and ad share in 2011, "should scare the hell out of print media":

A print optimist might read this as a sign that newspapers and magazines remain a more appealing medium to advertisers despite shrinking audiences. But Meeker argues it’s inevitable that ad dollars follow eyeballs, “it just takes time.”

And yet, while the trend line is clear, the decline from last year to this year is relatively mild. Rick Edmonds -- who reported recently that the consulting firm McKinsey found "digital platforms are getting only 8 percent" of news consumption time -- wrote in 2010 that Meeker's "big picture measure seems to me to suffer from one critical oversimplification: the notion that advertising is more or less equally effective by platform."

Newspaper, magazines and television each offer mature formats with particular strengths that advertising professionals know how to exploit. By contrast, way too big a share of digital display consists of banners easily ignored or various pop-up formats that annoy more than they sell.

My hunch is that it will take more like a decade than a year or two for Internet marketers to draw even in effectiveness — and thus in price — as measured by cost per thousand impressions. But time is emphatically on their side.

In an email, Edmonds advised remembering that "we are talking about time spent on all functions, which can be very different from time spent on news." Meeker, he said in a phone call, is "leaving out the notion that different platforms may have different levels of effectiveness, and that's a pretty big thing to leave out." Print, he said, "is still in some ways premium, and digital still has some very basic difficulty with do banners work.... And that's all the more so on mobile."

As in last year's presentation, Meeker says Internet and U.S. mobile advertising are potentially worth more than $20 billion. Last year she said mobile accounted for 10 percent of time spent and 1 percent of ad spending; this year time spent edged up to 12 percent and ad spending was 3 percent. Mobile ads, though, present publishers with many challenges.

Here's Meeker's whole presentation:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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