The One Chart Every Marketer Needs To Understand

one representing the one chart marketers need to understandLast year I announced that change was coming to B2B Marketing and urged marketers to get ready…

Earlier this week I wrote about the decline of trust in traditional news media, CEOs and government officials and the corresponding rise of the employee-brand. I argued that now is the time to build your personal brand to help build our businesses…

While the signs that the traditional marketing playbook is dead are all around us and the large majority of marketing sucks, even I was shocked to see the recent cliff-diving trend in advertising revenue…

And whether you work as a corporate marketer, a media mogul, a consultant or within an agency, this chart is something we all need to understand…This changes everything!

Business Insider’s Founder, Henry Blodget (@hblodget) predicted back in 2007 that “newspapers are screwed”.

He ran the numbers and realized that as traditional newspapers and magazines follow the audience and move to an online-only model, that ad revenue would decline significantly while content costs would stay the same.

Henry predicted a 40-50% drop in print ad revenue and the decline of many newspapers…And many traditional media supporters ridiculed the notion. Remember those numbers: 40-50%.

This week, Mark J. Perry, University of Michigan Professor of Economics, covered the latest numbers from the Newspaper Association of America and created this chart:

Newspaper Advertising Revenue

Mark mentions that “it’s another one of those huge Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction.”

But he also calls out how the decline has been so dramatic that despite ad revenues being at a 60-year low, the greatest decline came in the last 4 years where revenues dropped more than 50% from $46 Billion to $21. Henry Blodget’s prediction was actually conservative.

Lessons for Marketers

  • This is not just about newspapers
  • Customers are rapidly rejecting traditional marketing approaches in traditional channels.
  • Marketers have been slow to respond, creating a gap between customers behaviors and the marketing mix.
  • Content marketing and social media that seeks to meet customer needs is now more important than ever!
  • Businesses need a sound content strategy that holistically considers audience content and channel needs.
  • The future of marketing was digital. Marketers need to skill-up on digital (and social and mobile) and fast.

What does this chart mean for you?

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

20 thoughts on “The One Chart Every Marketer Needs To Understand

  1. I saw this chart yesterday and barely took note. Why? Because the story has been the same for years. When I took my first job at a daily newspaper in Boston back in 2005, I was called to a union meeting the first week where they announced management would be looking for buyouts…if they didn’t get them, they’d lay people off.

    While there’s no arguing that the business model of the traditional newspaper is woefully inadequate in today’s world, I’d actually argue the content model is sound. How many of the so-called new publishers (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr) are now hiring journalists away so they can piggyback on their editorial skills? In fact, if the traditional media is screwed, we’re all screwed. How many stories do you read in Google news that don’t come from places like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, etc.? How many blog posts are written as reactions to news dug up by these traditional sources?

    News is still the news. We still get it from the same sources. The only thing that’s changed are the paths to these sources.

    Great article, Michael!


    1. Thanks Jesse, I agree with you completely. It’s just the pay model that is changing. This isn’t new-news but it is surprising that it is still a shock to traditionalists. I also think it’s a good time to be a journalist. Moving from low-paying newsrooms to high-paying corporate marketing departments ain’t a bad gig!

  2. I used to be in the newspaper business and the writing was clearly on the wall on this one. As we get into content strategy for clients who have multiple messages for multiple audiences delivered on a single website, it seems that the editor skills needed in newspapers are needed. IMHO, individual companies are now mini-newspapers for their industries. I find content strategy meetings to be similar to the daily news meetings I used to attend from time-to-time.

    1. Great point Debbie. Robert Rose from CMI says that in the future all content will originate from brands, including the news. (not sure I agree completely?) But someone has to pay for it.

      No one argues there is value in news. And what business doesn’t want to be the provider of valuable content. As I said below, not a bad time to be a journalist…

  3. Wow, that chart is an impressive statement.

    You asked what it means to me, so here goes:

    Marketers, particularly when it comes to the traditional media mix, have always been followers. Instead of looking at where our audience has been and the way our market has been, we need to look ahead, at how we think it will be. (I wrote about this on Tuesday)

    B2B is behind in mobile, for instance, and the response from marketers is often that “our audience doesn’t use it like that”, “we don’t have much mobile traffic” or, my favorite, “if it doesn’t work on their mobile, they will just wait to look at it on their desktop.”

    Marketers aren’t getting mobile right now because they are looking at their own data, and they are not giving their audience a chance to engage via mobile. They are stuck in a chicken and egg discussion while their audience is on the train and out of the station.

    Coming back to the chart: things are changing FAST. Marketers could get away with being a little bit behind when the landscape was moving more slowly. As the pace of change accelerates, the opportunity cost of falling behind on that change increases.

    Catching up will not be enough. Marketers need to get ahead of their audience, they need to begin anticipating where they will be and be ready to meet them there.

    1. Mr Eric, you could not be more right. We advertisers as a whole have totally missed the boat on Mobile and continue to fall behind. I don’t think the chart is at all surprising. I’m only happy someone created it so we can use it to show the change-averse that the world is changing fast. And what they know is becoming irrelevant quickly.

      Now I’m usually an optimist but not sure marketers can get ahead of consumers. Steve Jobs did. Henry Ford did, couple of others, bit so, so few. But we can dream!!!

  4. Michael, will there always be people wanting to read books or do you predict a total change over to ebooks?

    1. Well even I admit to enjoying the feel of paper. I will always read a newspaper if I can find one but I have to say I use my iPad to read books (when I can) and don’t miss carrying a big heavy book to the beach on vacation…what about you?

  5. Michael,

    I am a contrarian by nature and believe so I tend to look at trends for indications of opportunities to NOT follow the herd. If print circulations are down along with page counts and ad sales I see an opening for having more influence in a smaller and less cluttered space. I believe too many marketers chase the latest shiny object whle overlooking the tried and true centers of influence within their industries. Trade publications with decades of experience covering unique industry segments are having to adapt to the digital age or die. They are hungry and willing to work in new and creative ways with marketers. And as interesting and novel as virtual events can be, there is still no substitute for the face-to-face engagement that trade shows can provide. I believe the most successful marketers will be those that aren’t lazy or risk averse. Always be testing and learning and don’t overlook the obvious, but less fashionable, avenues of influence. As for myself, I’m currently curious about how to best optimize Word Of Mouth Marketing and Custom Content Publishing. I believe the planets are aligning for these to be more powerful than ever but it still requires a great story and remarkable content to work. Some things never change.

    1. Hey Billy, yes I am jumping on the bandwagon here a bit! The reason is mainly that we tweet and go to conferences and talk to ourselves and all the other people who “get this” but the fact is that the majority of marketing is just plain bad, too slow to evolve, too indifferent to customer needs, too old-school, one-way communication.

      Now good content will always win no matter what the medium. I also happen to believe events are becoming more important in general as a complement to the impersonal nature of the digital world. And I have heard of marketers who are seeing great ROI on traditional tactics.

      But the fact is that ad dollars have not followed the audience online and to mobile. So the early adopters will be mostly bad attempts at applying the old way to the new way, lots of SPAM, poorly executed content, etc. But the point is that we need to meet our customers in the way they consume information, in a way that meets their needs. So that is my basic point. I think the chart just shows the mass of slow-movers that it’s time to think about changing…I think we can agree on that!?

  6. As a former print and web publisher, I can share first hand that marketers may be afraid to move completely online, but they print advertising only out of habit. Print advertising gets very little mindshare among high level marketing executives. They know their marketing stinks. and want to move online and into content and inbound marketing, but they don’t yet know how. Once they start hiring journalists away from media companies the chart you shared will be even more dramatic.

  7. Michael, after 25 years in magazine publishing (and related journalistic endeavors) I bailed. Maybe I’m an early adaptor, but even then it was clear that the print publication advertiser supported business model was screwed. The web and social media allow content to be disaggregated. Leading edge advertisers have less need for media to serve up audiences. The disintermediatiion I learned about in business school and experienced in the savings and loan business (as an industry journalist) is at work in publishing. Creative destruction is painful, but more value and efficiency are the result.

  8. Michael – This is such a great post. The traditional advertising model has indeed taken a nosedive. My husband is the editor of a state tourism magazine and this is a question they grapple with constantly. (In fact, the two of us both majored in Journalism as undergrads so this is a topic we discuss often!) Information has become a commodity. Newspapers and magazines are just another communication medium for sharing information about a topic, and media has fragmented. I had a professor as an undergrad who talked a lot about media fragmentation in Europe (he wrote the book “Entangled Evolutions: Media and Democratization in Eastern Europe”) which drove home the point to me that media tends to undergo cycles of fragmentation and then eventually it re-synthesizes into something new. This drives home your point about the Schumpeterian model. I think the key for marketers will be capitalizing on whatever the new system is that emerges, and I believe that’s still in the process of being shaped which is why it’s been so difficult to figure out!

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      This is a household discussion for my wife and I who are both marketers at SAP, although focusing in different areas. I agree someting new will emerge. There will always be a need and a model for delivering news, information, entertainment. It’s just a question of who and how. Interestng times indeed!

  9. Great post Mike!
    Newspapers are pretending to know and understand social media to stay relevant.
    They talk a good game, but I have not seen results to back it up.
    One piece I have seen them execute with some success was a deal of the day coupon. It’s geared more to B2C businesses.
    Thanks for sharing your insight 🙂

    1. Hi AJ, yes, I think daily deals is a great way to extend the pay model and get creative with promotions, but in the end, they will need consumers willing to pay for their content. Thanks for your comments.

  10. I agree that online marketing is the new trend now. It is much cheaper and more effective than newspaper advertisements and it is easily scalable. Also, instead of popular banner ads, many companies are now shifting their focus to online search marketing.

    Great blog post, hope to hear from you soon.

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