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June 11, 2019, 4:55 p.m.

The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers has gotten even a wee bit scarier

Comparing 2010 and 2018 side by side makes it clear what a changed media universe we now live in.

It’s an annual moment of print realism here at Nieman Lab: the posting of the attention/advertising slide from Mary Meeker’s state-of-the-Internet slide deck. It’s enough of a tradition that I can now copy-and-paste from multiple versions of this post. Here’s a sentence from the 2013 version:

For those who don’t know it, Meeker — formerly of Morgan Stanley, at VC firm Kleiner Perkins since late 2010 — each year produces a curated set of data reflecting what she sees as the major trends in Internet usage and growth. It may be the only slide deck that qualifies as an event unto itself.

And a chunk from the 2014 version:

What’s useful about Meeker’s deck is that its core data serves as a punctuation mark on some big, ongoing trends. The kind of trends we all know are happening, but whose annual rate of progress can be hard to judge. Like, say, the continued demise of print.

The Meeker slide that always interests me most is the one where she shows how American attention is divided among various forms of media — and how that division lines up with where advertising dollars go. How much of our attention goes to television, say, versus how much of our advertising goes there?

It’s not absolute dogma that the two — audience attention and advertising dollars — will always be equal. But it makes sense that they would tend toward parity. More people listening to the radio should lead to more companies advertising on the radio, or vice versa.

The only thing that needs updating in those paragraphs is that Meeker left Kleiner Perkins last fall, a move dramatic enough to inspire the New York Times headline Mary Meeker, ‘Queen of the Internet,’ Is Leaving Kleiner Perkins to Start a New Fund. She now operates under her own shingle, Bond.

The schtick in my previous six annual Meeker updates here at Nieman Lab was going through her previous years’ slides one by one, showing the changes as they evolve, and then unveiling the brand new slide showing things were worse than ever. (See last year’s for an example.)

But she flipped things up this year and made the slide itself a cross-year comparison. So I’ll just show it to you!

So to get your bearings: Meeker divides media into five segments: print (newspapers and magazines), radio, TV, desktop (meaning Internet media on desktop and laptop computers), and mobile (the same but on phones and tablets). Also: Just to be a little extra confusing, she called desktop just plain “Internet” in earlier versions of this slide.

And to make the terminology clear: When she says “TV” or “radio” or “print,” she is talking about the form of media distribution, not the company that’s producing the content. So if you listen to NPR on your car radio, that’s “radio.” If you listen to an NPR podcast on your iPhone, that’s “mobile.” Spread out the morning paper on your breakfast table? That’s “print.” Read NYTimes.com on your laptop? That’s “desktop.”

For each type of media, there are two bars. The left one (here in red) shows the share of Americans’ media consumption that comes in that medium. The right one (blue) shows the share of American ad dollars that are spent on that medium.

(Meeker’s consumption time-spent data comes from eMarketer, which published it separately a couple of weeks ago, so you can see the differences in stark numerical detail here.)

So let’s compare 2010 to 2018, as Meeker asks us to do.

In 2010, print media took up 8% of our media attention — but an outsized 27% of ad dollars.

In 2018, print media took up only 3% of our attention and 7% of ad dollars.

In that short span, less than a decade, print usage collapsed. As is often the case, ad dollars reacted more slowly to media changes than did audience behavior — but it’s caught up enough for a full three-quarters of ad spend to disappear.

The scarier reality is that it still has further to fall. Print still gets more than twice as many ad dollars as our usage of it would say it “earns.” Again, there’s no law that says they have to equalize — but that’s the direction they always seem to move.

In 2010, TV took up 43% of our media attention and an equal 43% of ad dollars.

In 2018, TV took up 34% of our attention and a still-equal 34% of ad dollars.

Advertisers have understood how to think about TV for a long time; they’ve had decades of practice to figure out how what works. (TV for these purposes includes live TV and DVR’d shows but not Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, even if you’re watching them on the big flat rectangle in your living room.) Cord cutting and the allure of phones has led to a steady drip-drip decline in TV usage since 2010, and ad dollars have followed that trendline in lockstep. Americans still watch a lot of TV — three and a half hours a day, on average.

In 2010, radio took up 16% of our media attention and 11% of ad dollars.

In 2018, radio took up 12% of our attention and a still-equal 8% of ad dollars.

Radio is facing a slow long-term decline similar to TV’s, though all the commuting hours we spend in our cars has kept levels from going too low. Its attention/ad dollar ratio has remained relatively steady over this span.

In 2010, desktop internet took up 25% of our media attention and 19% of ad dollars.

In 2018, desktop internet took up 18% of our attention and 18% of ad dollars.

If you told an ad guy circa 2006 that, in the next decade approaching, the share of ads going to web browsers on people’s computers would actually shrink, he’d probably laugh so hard he’d have to hit pause on the Daughtry playlist on his iPod. But by 2010, some folks had seen enough potential in the iPhone to realize those dollars aren’t getting less digital — they’re just moving to people’s pockets.

It took a while for advertisers to move dollars into digital, but they did reach a certain equilibrium a few years back. Desktop is now a flat-to-declining source of media consumption — still with strength during weekday working hours, but utterly abandoned for mobile on nights and weekends.

In 2010, mobile took up 8% of our media attention and 0.5% of ad dollars.

In 2018, mobile took up 33% of our attention and an equal 33% of ad dollars.

At the start of this decade, mobile was an increasingly popular but hard-to-monetize medium. The dominant ad model on desktop was some iteration of the banner ad: Publish some content, put an ad in a rectangle near the content, and profit! Smartphones’ then-tiny screens didn’t seem to leave much room for that sort of adjacency, and mobile advertising floundered. Sixteen times more attention than ad dollars!

But obviously that’s changed as our phones have become the center point around which the rest of our lives’ revolve. The “opportunity gap” that’s existed all decade in mobile ad potential has officially closed. Mobile will zip past TV on this slide next year, I’d wager, and be the undenied No. 1 for at least a few years to come.

Let me wrap up by copying what I wrote six years ago, most of which holds up; the overarching trends haven’t really changed much, only been amplified.

Print advertising is not coming back. It will fall further. Substantially further. All newspaper planning for the coming few years needs to reckon with that basic fact.

Mobile continues its rocket rise, and there’s still lots of room for ad revenue growth. And now it’s even eating away at the Great American Time Suck, television. Mobile is eating the world, and most news organizations make only a pittance off it.

POSTED     June 11, 2019, 4:55 p.m.
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