Is print getting its fair share in advertising?

Ever wondered why advertising spending in print publications declined so rapidly and how much further this could go on? Or when is print getting its fair share in advertising? Interesting research from WARC/GWI compares advertising spend against media consumption. An index value above 100 shows that the advertising spending share is higher than the media consumption share, while a value below 100 indicates the opposite. In other words: print press had an advertising share three times its share of media consumption in 2013.

The chart below shows a simplified and approximated version of the data gathered by WARC/GWI, but it conveys the main developments and ratios. The data is based on a survey of 715,000 consumers across 100 countries conducted by GWI in mid-2021. 2022 is obviously forecasted.

Ad spend versus media consumption
Ad spend versus media consumption (source: WARC/GWI)

It might not surprise that advertising allocation is not changing as fast as media consumption behaviours. In 2013 print and TV as the established media gained a lot more of the advertising pie than the upstart digital media, even as consumers were already flocking to Facebook (or was it still Myspace and Google Plus back then?). As readership in print publications declined, its advertising share declined even faster. Instead, marketers poured their spending into social media and by now their advertising spending portion is higher than the share of time spent in social networks. Online video broke the 100 index barrier in 2020, which indicates more money than time spent for this channel. Printed press is expected to cross the equilibrium line the other way in 2022.

Other media channels never got close to the equilibrium such as radio. For radio, as a media often consumed in the background, this is not a surprise. Online audio and podcasts started even lower; however, they are quite new as major media channel. Online press ranks low as well, which makes it an undervalued media for quite some time now.

Keep in mind, the data narrows down a complex relationship to a simple number. Obviously, media channels have different effectiveness and impact and not all channels are included (e.g. direct marketing). For example, a lot of research is showing that print (including online press) is a lot more trusted than e.g. social media and hence should garner a premium. However, this is a tough sell against cold hearted, numbers driven marketing executives (and against the other ones as well). Indicators and numbers got increasingly important in marketing.

Yet an important metric is turning in favour of print now. Print is not only a preferred media for many, it is also getting less attention than it should. It might not stop the downturn in print advertising completely, but it could mean that print is getting its fair share in advertising again.

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