Online adspend soared 32% in South Africa in 2008, according to research by World Wide Worx and the Online Publishers Association. Sounds great, until you take a closer look at the figures. Online adspend rose to R319 million, from R240 million in 2007. That may sound like a lot of money, but is is a tiny fraction – about 1.4% – of total adspend, which was about R23 billion, give or take a few hundred million rand. About R6.5 billion of that went to newspapers.
Those figures illustrate better than anything the conundrum facing newspaper proprietors. They are being told, day in and day out, that their industry is dead, or will be soon. Yet their business makes about 20 times as much money as the business which is supposed to be replacing it. What to do while we wait for online adspend to catch up with print, television and radio?
Yes, we are seeing healthy growth in online adspend. But it comes of a very low base. And World Wide Worx’ s prediction of 32% growth in 2009 is, I’m afraid, pie in the sky. We’re in the midst of the worst global recession since 1929, and to believe that online media could somehow float above that, untouched, is absurd.