Advertising History Is Made — Web Ads Overtook Newspaper Ads in 2010

Okay, the deed is done: online has finally beaten print. The advertising dollars have been counted, and it looks like bits and bytes are prevailing in 2010, though the margin is slim. According to research from eMarketer, writes Peter Kafka of AllThingsD, web advertising spend is poised to hit $25.8 billion in 2010, while newspaper ad spend will reach $25.7 billion. Interestingly, $3 billion of the 2010 newspaper take is actually online.

This is a day we’ve all seen coming for quite a while. Ever since the late 1990s, we’ve been hearing endless chatter about the “death of print,” but it’s really been a decade-and-a-half long process, littered with Monty Python-esque references to not being dead yet.

Online advertising is up 13.9 percent year over year, according to eMarketer‘s data, and it’s set to show annual double-digit growth through 2014, when the market is expected to reach a value of $40.5 billion. Projections for the newspaper industry, which are presented through the end of next year, aren’t as favorable. After hitting a total of $49.4 billion in 2005 – $47.4 billion for newspaper print ads and $2 billion for newspaper online ads – the total is forecast to fall from this year’s $25.7 billion to $24.6 billion, with only $21.4 billion coming from print ads in the newspapers.

Interestingly, newspaper online ad sales are poised to continue their ascent, though in much smaller dollars than the internet advertising market (ex-newspapers). Next year, newspaper online advertising is expected to reach $3.2 billion, up from $3 billion this year. This will bring it back to its 2007 (pre-financial crisis) peak. Meanwhile, online ad spending is set to hit $28.5 billion next year, 15.9 percent higher than the total newspaper advertising market.

Of course, the online advertising market is getting more than a little help from Google.

Kafka reports that 40 percent of the eMarketer forecast is based on Google‘s projected net U.S. revenue. Already, with $28.8 billion in revenue, Kafka observes, Google is thrashing the newspaper advertising business. In fact, it’s also ahead of the entire online advertising business and beats the 2011 forecast, too.

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Doubtless, newspaper complacency is part of the problem. The death of classified ads at the hands of craigslist, for example, has cost community newspapers what used to be the source of half their revenue. Job and real estate sites have led to the decimation of other newspaper advertising sections.

It took a while for us to get to this point, especially given the dire print predictions I remember from back in 1999 and 2000, but by the time 2005 rolled around, the groundwork had been established and the rest was just waiting to be history. And now, here we are. Newspapers are now working with roughly half the advertising revenue they received only five years ago, and growth on the online side isn’t likely to compensate for print declines anytime soon.

Is the print apocalypse at hand? Well, it’s too early to tell of course. Maybe, in the words of another Monty Python character, the newspapers are “just resting.”