The chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2010, and estimated annual revenue for 2011 using quarterly data through the third quarter, from the Newspaper Association of America. The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2011 dollars. Estimated revenues of $20.7 billion in 2011 will be the lowest annual amount spent on newspaper advertising since $19.5 billion in 1951, exactly 60 years ago.
The decline in newspaper ad revenues to a 60-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning. Last year's ad revenues of about $21 billion were less than half of the $46 billion spent just four years ago in 2007, and less than one-third of the $64 billion spent in 2000.
And even when online advertising is added to the print ads, the combined total spending for print and online advertising in 2011 will still only be about $22.6 billion, just slightly more than the $22.5 billion spent on print advertising in 1954.
It's another one of those huge Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction.
Update: Here's another perspective: It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 11 years to go from $63.5 billion back to about $20 billion in 2011.