By: Alan D. Mutter
If you compare the modest amount of time that consumers read newspapers with the billions in advertising dollars spent on the medium, you will see that newspapers long have captured far more than their fair share of the advertising pie. But this could begin unraveling with a vengeance in 2015, as mobile advertising surges to record levels.
As discussed in a moment, mobile advertising expenditures exploded by 76 percent in the first half of 2014 to $5.3 billion, surpassing even the sum spent on banners. Meanwhile, a chilling survey of advertising executives shows that 41 percent of them plan to fund their expanding mobile advertising budgets in 2015 by reducing print expenditures.
In other words, mobile’s gain could prove to be a further setback to publishers who already have seen their advertising revenues decline by more than half since peaking at $49.4 billion in 2005. Here’s why publishers should be worried:
The disproportionate share of dollars spent on newspaper advertising is illustrated in a simple analysis (tinyurl.com/mbp85xr) put together recently by eMarketer, an independent analytics firm. By dividing the amount of advertising dollars spent on print by the number of minutes the average American spends with the medium, eMarketer found that advertisers in 2014 spent 83 cents per minute to reach print readers and only 7 cents a minute pursuing mobile users.
Inasmuch as markets abhor this sort of inefficiency, it is axiomatic to conclude that advertisers will begin to vector ever more of their dollars from print, where the average American adult spends a combined 26 minutes a day with newspapers and magazines, to smartphones and tablets, where the average use is 2 hours and 51 minutes a day. Over the years, it should be noted, mobile use has increased at a break-neck pace, rising to the current level from less than half an hour daily in 2009. In the same period, combined newspaper and magazine readership slipped from 50 minutes a day to 26, according to eMarketer.
With consumers spending ever more of their time on mobile devices, it makes sense that advertisers are spending more of their money on mobile media. In the first half of 2014, mobile ad expenditures increased 76 percent over the prior year to $5.3 billion, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, a trade group. The IAB reported that the mobile growth rate was five times faster than the 15 percent gain in advertising across all digital categories.
Digital ad statistics for all of 2014 will not be available until later this year, but here is what we know now: If the digital advertising market expanded as rapidly in second half of 2014 as it did in the first, then full-year mobile sales for the year would be $12.5 billion. Assuming the over-all digital advertising market grew as much in the second half of 2014 as it did in the first half, then mobile would have represented fully a quarter of the $49.3 billion in ad sales the industry was on track to produce in 2014.
To put this in perspective, mobile advertising has rocketed from insignificance in 2010 to being second only today to desktop search advertising, which represents about 38 percent of total digital ad volume.
As for the future, PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that worldwide mobile advertising will increase by some 25 percent (tinyurl.com/kp5tt86) in 2015, while Magna Global forecasts a 64 percent (tinyurl.com/k4lkdcw) gain. Either way, it is a lot.
Thanks in equal parts to inertia on the part of marketers and to able salesmanship on the part of the newspapers and magazines, publishers long have garnered more than their fair share of advertising dollars. After all, it is easier for advertisers to buy tens of thousands of dollars in print advertising than to place, monitor and analyze the performance of tens of thousands of digital ads. And it certainly is more fun attending a basketball game with a congenial ad rep than crunching numbers on a Google Ads spreadsheet.
But the powerful shift to mobile advertising could change things precipitously. Here’s why:
After interviewing some 300 senior managers at consumer brands and advertising agencies, a consulting group called Advertiser Perceptions found (tinyurl.com/owylbp8) that 41 percent of the respondents plan to boost their mobile ad budgets in 2015 by reducing the sums they spend on print. In addition to trimming print, 34 percent of the marketers said they would cut television spending and 32 percent said they would reduce traditional digital display advertising.
The study found that 83 percent of the marketers plan to shift to mobile because they believe the intimacy and immediacy of handheld devices will enable them to have more individualized and instantaneous relationships with their customers than ever before.
With “more and more people using mobile,” said one marketer quoted anonymously in the report, “we are moving our ad spend…so we can reach users via the devices they currently are using to access content.”
Alan D. Mutter is a former newspaper editor and Silicon Valley CEO who today consults with media companies on technology and technology companies on the media. He blogs at Reflections of Newsosaur (newsosaur.blogspot.com).