The Newspaper Association of America keeps a helpful tally of annual ad revenues earned by its 2,000 member news organizations, which has recently been graphed by one Professor Mark Perry from the University of Michigan-Flint. What his data, adjusted for inflation to 2011 dollars, shows is just how precipitously advertiser interest has dropped in print media. Hitting a peak of just over $60 billion near the turn of the century, advertising in printed media has been on a rapid decline ever since, experiencing huge reductions in 2008 (17.7 percent) and 2009 (28.6 percent) and estimated to sit at a little over $20b for the whole of last year. That's less than half what advertisers spent on getting their messages into printed newspapers only five years ago.
As Derek Thompson of The Atlantic points out, however, we needn't read this data as the harbinger of the death of newspapers. It would be more accurate to describe it as a correction, an adjustment to the new role of print media in an increasingly online-centric world. After all, $20 billion is still an impressively large number, and although online ad revenues are growing, the NAA's members are only generating $3.2b from them (or about 16 percent of what their traditional ad sales produce). So, it's too soon to write off print yet, but it's not too early to chart its fall from the pinnacle of the late 90s. See The Atlantic for another visually arresting chart, breaking things down by newspaper.