Internet Ad Revenue Grows! Really?

The Wall Street Journal quotes a study  in an article published on June 15 that states flatly, the “Internet is set to overtake newspapers in ad revenue.” Another nail in old media’s coffin?

“The Internet is poised to overtake newspapers as the second-largest U.S. advertising medium by revenue behind television, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Entertainment and Media Outlook for 2010 to 2014. […] The online ad business, excluding mobile ads, is set to expand to $34.4 billion in 2014 from $24.2 billion in 2009, according to the report. Newspapers, meanwhile, continue to suffer from a decline in advertising revenue. According to numbers released by the Newspaper Association of America earlier this year, print advertising revenue dropped 28.6% in 2009 to $24.82 billion. The PwC report estimates that print advertising in newspapers will hit $22.3 billion by 2014.”

Yet, The Economist recently wrote,

“Between 2004 and 2007, online advertising revenues doubled from $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion, according to The Newspaper Association of America. But in the second quarter of 2008, they began to fall, just as the loss of print and classified advertisements accelerated.” (The Economist, May 16, 2010)

On June 16, The Economist revisited that claim, stating:

“The Newspaper Association of America reports that print and [my emphasis] online advertising has fallen by 35% since the first quarter of 2008. Circulation has dropped alarmingly too. Yet almost all newspapers have survived, albeit with occasional help from the bankruptcy courts.”

Still, print performs much worse when it comes to advertisement, as written in this June 15 blog post by Reflections of a Newsosaur “Make No Mistake: Newspapers Are Still in Trouble“:

“American publishers missed out on the broad advertising recovery that took place in the first three months of this year.[…] The only positive growth posted by newspapers in the first period of 2010 — which also happened to be the first advance in any category in 24 months — was an increase of 4.9% in online advertising. But this pales in comparison to the over-all industry improvement of 7.5% in the same period, suggesting that newspapers are continuing to lose ground in even the vital interactive marketplace.”

I think nobody really knows what’s going on, and publishing a speculative assessment of what’s to come in online media in the next 4 years as PricewaterhouseCoopers has done, seems utterly useless to put it mildly.

Four years is a life time on the web.

Your Brain Online

Long post. But maybe by reading this, you can refute a thesis that the Internet has altered our brains. Maybe. Keep reading, even though there are no bullet points.

A June 11 op-ed by Steven Pinker, “Mind Over Mass Media,” in the New York Times stated the following:

“[…] Knowledge is increasing exponentially […] Fortunately, the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output at different scales, from Twitter and previews to e-books and online encyclopedias. Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart.”

Then, Nicholas Carr’s published a blog post with his sharp rebuttal of Pinker’s thesis:

“The fact that people who fiddle with cell phones drive poorly shouldn’t make us less concerned about the cognitive effects of media distractions; it should make us more concerned. […] I have little doubt that Steven Pinker will one day write a cogent, thoughtful, and balanced critique of Internet skepticism. I look forward to reading it.”

Carr, by the way, is the author of The Shallows, which was reviewed in the NYTimes Magazine on June 6 under the headline “Our Cluttered Minds”.
The review ended with these words:

“While Carr tries to ground his argument in the details of modern neuroscience, his most powerful points have nothing do with our plastic cortex. Instead, The Shallows is most successful when Carr sticks to cultural criticism, as he documents the losses that accompany the arrival of new technologies. Or maybe even these worries are mistaken; it can be hard to predict the future through the haze of nostalgia. In 1916, T. S. Eliot wrote to a friend about his recent experiments with composing poetry on the typewriter. The machine “makes for lucidity,” he said, “but I am not sure that it encourages subtlety.” A few years later, Eliot presented Ezra Pound with a first draft of “The Waste Land.” Some of it had been composed on the typewriter.”

The Times also published an interview with Carr, and Wired Magazine printed in its June issue an excerpt from Carr’s book, introducing the article with these words: “The riot of information from the Internet shatters our focus and rewires our brain.” Carr writes in his book:

“When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain. […] The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it. […] The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself — our preferred method of both learning and analysis.”

I mostly agree with Carr. Strictly speaking from personal experience of course, being online and available all the time frequently means many wasted hours — and I exclude working on this blog. The more I read, the less I take in. To quote T.S. Eliot, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

No scientific data to back me up really, but I know best what the Internet has or has not done to my mind. Anyone who has put his/her keys in the freezer because the Blackberry chirped relentlessly must recognize this feeling.

Rudolf ArnheimI counter Pinker’s notion that we all are “getting smarter” because of the web — social and world-wide and any other kind — with this quote written in 1930 by Rudolf Arnheim, a German author, art- and film theorist and perceptual psychologist, who wrote about mass media in the early 1930s (pictured): “Human beings will come to confuse the world perceived by their senses and the world interpreted by thought. They will believe that seeing is understanding.”

I think he was on to something.

Already back in January, before the Carr/NYTimes face-off, an article in Newsweek had quoted studies that deflated the idea that the Internet was changing our brain (“Your Brain Online”). The article featured an introduction with an account of what we perceive the Internet to be doing to our brain: “Shortened attention span. Less interest in reflection and introspection. Inability to engage in in-depth thought. Fragmented, distracted thinking.” But it still somehow came to the conclusion that “the ways the Internet supposedly affects thought are as apocalyptic as they are speculative, since all the above are supported by anecdote, not empirical data.”

In a very, very, very long article in The Atlantic, Carr had asked “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The short answer should have been “no”. Because stressing that readers skim and not read and that they are too wired to absorb, dismisses the fact that The Atlantic and its readers are living proof that the opposite can be true as well. These people like to read. And they presumably go online as well. It seems on that platform, he was preaching to the wrong crowd.

The effect of the Internet can not be explained in black or white. Still, Carr’s words of caution have merit: “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Then again, Arnheim was already prescient enough to know this in 1930.

(You might be interested in checking out this website: EDGE by the Edge Foundation that has many takes by scientists and scholars on the topic and revisits the question annually.)

Paid vs. Free in Germany

“While daily newspaper circulation in the United States fell 27 percent from 1998 through 2008, it slipped 19 percent in Germany. While fewer than half of Americans read newspapers, more than 70 percent of Germans do.[…] Instead of focusing on journalism, U.S. newspapers also made unwise investments in new media and compounded the damage by giving away their contents free on the Internet.”

Media News – European Journalism Centre

When All Fails…

Next time you want to rip up your newspaper/magazine in disgust over a sloppy article, try this instead: Go to “Media Behaving Badly” and “add a fail”.

The site, run by Free Press, is “a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism, and universal access to communications.”

Media Behaving Badly | MediaFAIL

All Google’s Fault…

This is long, but hey, it’s from The Atlantic. Better print it and read… The old-fashioned way, I suppose. Less eye-strain.This proves that a print piece as is doesn’t really belong on the web, right? Or does it? You be the judge.

“How to Save the News” (…and it’s all Goggle’s fault!): How to Save the News – Magazine – The Atlantic

Are Apple Products “Rotting Our Brains”?

“President Obama has said that devices like Apple’s iPad are rotting our brains. He’s right,” argues Daniel Lyons in Newsweek (…which, by the way, and maybe not coincidentally, was just put up for sale. Maybe out brains really can’t process authoritative weeklies any longer?).

The president believes, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of  emancipation.” Lyons continues:

Oh, but we’re very, very busy zombies. We’re reading e-mail. We’re tweeting and retweeting. We’re downloading apps, and uploading photos. We’re updating our Facebook status and reading our news feeds and telling the whole world what we like and don’t like, because for some reason we imagine that the whole world actually cares. You know what we’re not doing? We’re not thinking. We’re processing. There’s a difference. […] No way. What’s happening is this: we are being so overwhelmed by the noise and junk zooming past us that we’re becoming immune to it. We’ve become a nation of Internet-powered imbeciles, with an ever-lower threshold for inanity. Beck and Palin are the inevitable outcome of that devolution. They are what we deserve. They are, in fact, what we’ve created.”

What do you think? See this blog post for my take on what technology does — or doesn’t do— to our brains.

Social Media. Now What?

“Social media are becoming part of journalism, another transmission system, that all journalism must be involved in, in much the same way that aggregation is now a component of journalism. Journalism is more than narrative now. It is more than storytelling. It always has been, but professional journalists didn’t always see it. Journalism is shifting from being a product…to being a service…how can I help you answer your questions.” Tom Rosenstiel on the Future of Journalism | Future of Journalism

I think this calls for sharing with you one of my favorite media cartoons of all times re YouTube comments. Enough said.

By the way, have you heard this new adjective, introduced in the June issue of Wired Magazine’s Jargon Watch:
“Word-of-finger, adj, Marketing communicated via the keystrokes of social media.” Makes sense.

And finally, a video: “What the Hell Is Social Media?”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/QLd9q88ohUs&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”640″ height=”385″>]

Bleak Future

“We are going to lose a horrifying amount of experience, judgment, talent and the culture of journalism which has, for the most part, made it a very ethical enterprise. Not only are we losing the accumulated judgment, wisdom, experience, knowledge of tens of thousands of journalists, we are losing their sense of how to stay relatively pure.” Bob Garfield on Future of Journalism | Future of Journalism

Hear, hear.

Where do we go from here, in our unstoppable march toward new journalism and communications 3.0? Become a “tradigital journalist.” Combine the traditional with the digital but apply the same ethical and professional standards. My two cents.

Giving Away Information for Free

“Giving away information for free on the Internet while still charging 50 cents to $1 for the print version of the paper was one of the most fundamentally flawed business decisions of the past 25 years. Newspapers told their paying customers that the information truly had no value. They told their paying customers that they were suckers. Why would anyone pay 50 cents for something he or she can get for free? This poorly conceived and obviously flawed strategy has helped put the newspaper industry into its current financial condition and hastened the demise of many publications.”

Paul MacArthur on future of papers | Future of Journalism