The Great Ad Share Shift: Google Sucks Life Out Of Old Media UPDATED


Everyone talks about advertising dollars shifting online, but when you’re fighting all day in the trenches it’s easy to miss the big picture.  Here’s the big picture:

US advertising revenue at 4 big online media companies–Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), AOL (TWX), and MSN (MSFT)–grew by $860 million in Q2, or 26%. 

US advertising revenue at 15 big television, newspaper, magazine, radio, and outdoor companies (Time Warner, Viacom, CBS, etc.) shrank by $280 million in Q2, or 3%.

Put differently, U.S. advertising revenue at all 19 companies increased 4% year over year in Q2, to $13.8 billion ($55 billion annualized).  The online portion of this pie grew from $3.3 billion to $4.2 billion (25% share to 30% share).  The offline portion, meanwhile, shrank from $9.9 billion to $9.6 billion (75% share to 70% share).  The online companies, in other words, picked up 5 percentage points of market share in a single year.

Other fun facts:

Within our company set, the only traditional media business that grew U.S. advertising year-over-year in Q2 was Outdoor (up 13%).  Meanwhile:

  • Television (cable and broadcast) shrank 1%, or $50 million
  • Print (magazines and newspapers) shrank 5%, or $170 million
  • Radio (terrestrial) shrank 7%, or $105 million

Obvious Conclusions

Traditional media executives–especially in the newspaper business–often blame their current woes on “the real estate market” or “cyclical weakness.”   Economic weakness may be exaggerating the downturn, but it’s not the real problem.  Whatever weakness is hitting the newspapers is also hitting Google.

Media power is not only shifting by medium (the handful of Internet companies are collectively valued more highly than most of their traditional media brethren combined), but by geography. Most “big media” companies are still headquartered in New York. Most media power, however, is now headquartered in California.

These trends are secular, not cyclical: TV networks, radio networks, and newspaper companies won’t suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves back in charge.  Individual Internet companies may screw up (see Yahoo/AOL), but if they do, others will rise to take their place (Google).

Traditional media executives are doing a superb job of milking cash flow out of shrinking businesses, but you can’t save your way to prosperity.  The smartest companies acknowledge this and are 1) returning cash flow to shareholders, 2) diversifying via M&A (as the Washington Post has done), and/or investing in or buying promising interactive businesses.


We looked at US advertising revenue for 19 companies: Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Time Warner, Viacom, CBS, News Corp., CBS Radio, Citadel, Disney, Entercom, Clear Channel, Clear Channel Outdoor, Time Inc., New York Times Company, McClatchy, Dow Jones, and Gannett.  We divided the companies into the following sectors: Online, Television, Print, Radio, and Outdoor.  Please see detailed data, analyses, and notes here.

Note: In the original version of this post, we misstated Google’s 2006 Q2 U.S. revenue.  The correction modestly reduced the year-over-year share gain for Google and the online sector.  The spreadsheet has been corrected.