They seem so long ago and far away now, those days when media proprietors were reporting steady growth (typically of revenues, not necessarily readers/listeners/viewers). Now we trumpet “a decline of only 9%” as heartening, at least within the context of the economic tsunami that was 2009.
Anyway, that’s the word from Newspaper Publishers Association president Michael Muir, reporting on what’s described as “the core revenue streams of National and Retail advertising, which are the industry measure for all main media channels”. Mr Muir goes on to note that “newspapers have delivered a much stronger result in 2009 than many would have expected, which was a great vote of confidence by advertisers in the future of the medium”.
9% stacks up well against the just-released Advertising Industry Turnover figures (produced each year by the Advertising Standards Authority), indicating that the industry as a whole is down 11.7%.
But there is one caveat to the NPA results — total newspaper advertising revenues for 2009 are shown as down 18%, suggesting a massive drop in the classified advertising portion of newspaper earnings.
The NPA president didn’t release figures on any classifieds revenues, but by implication they were hardest hit when the Global Financial Crisis took hold in New Zealand (as elsewhere).
In fact, an early sign of the classified segment’s decline (across the ditch) came late last month when Fairfax Media and APN announced an unprecedented agreement combining the Fairfax Media classified brands, Drive.com.au, Domain.com.au and MyCareer.com.au, with the APN print classified sections in more than 90 publications through regional Queensland. You don’t parlay with the enemy when things are going swimmingly.
Over here, Fairfax’s online darling Trade Me continues to grow, with its revenue up 14% in the second half of 2009 –admittedly not in the same league as its glory days when the company managed 1078% growth and was crowned Deloitte’s fastest growing company of 2004, but still highly desirable in the context of doom-laden 2009. In New Zealand, at least, classifieds have found a new home.
All of which leads us to wonder: at what point will print-based classifieds become more trouble than they’re worth for newspapers? No doubt they’re highly profitable from a cost-per-column-centimetre perspective, but (because of their inherently last-minute nature) they do put enormous stresses and strains on the administrative infrastructure of newspapers.
Will there come a time when it doesn’t make fiscal sense for newspapers to carry classifieds? If that day ever arises, where will we turn for such classified gems as “For Sale: one pair hardly used dentures, only 2 teeth missing” or “Used tombstone, perfect for someone names Homer Hendelbergen”?
PS For the record, these are the Ad Industry Turnover figures, by medium, compared in percentage terms with 2008: