Whew! Publishers are expecting the plunge in newspaper advertising revenues to level off next year. Maybe now we can stop the bleeding and not feel so much pressure to change.
Or can we?
Alan Mutter wrote yesterday of the publishers’ projections in his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, asking, What the heck are publishers thinking? He cast doubt on the publishers’ projections, reflected in a survey by Kubas Consultants.
I sarcastically tweeted: “Wonder what these optimistic pubs predicted for 2009,” then went on with whatever I was working on at the time. But I wondered it again today when a couple more people tweeted about Mutter’s blog and the Kubas survey. So I stopped wondering and called up the Kubas report on what the publishers expected for 2009.
At the time, Kubas said the publishers were pretty grim in their 2009 forecasts (much grimmer than for 2010). They were battening the hatches for a precipitous decline in advertising revenue.
The answer: The publishers’ outlook a year ago “can only be described as terrible,” Kubas wrote at the time. In retrospect, though, we can say the publishers’ outlook was actually cheery. The gloomy year they predicted was not even close to the gloomy year that unfolded. Of course, we don’t have fourth-quarter numbers in yet, and some reports say the fourth-quarter should fare better than the first three (though you’re going to see that projections from this industry should be treated cautiously).
Mutter compared the Kubas projections for 2010 with actual performance for the first three quarters of 2009. I added two columns to Mutter’s table: publishers 2009 projections and the spread in percentage points between that projection and the actual performance for the first three quarters. In only one case (other classified) was the publishers’ projection within 15 percentage points of the actual performance. Their worst call: employment advertising, where they forecast a 16 percent drop. They were right that employment would have the sharpest decline from 2008, but they missed by 50 percentage points. They missed by 31 points in real estate and 28 in both online and automotive.
I hope the publishers are right in their forecast for 2010. We could use a good year.
But I can’t care much what they think the year will hold because they don’t know.
We need to move beyond advertising, as described in the revenue approach of the Complete Community Connection. We need to pursue mobile opportunities, as I have described in recent blog posts. And we can’t hold back from either of these pursuits because newspaper executives think they don’t have enough potential. Because we know how accurately they can see the future.