If this remarkable statistic has been publicized, I somehow missed it, but there's a doozy in the Wall Street Journal today (subscription required; see Question 7 in the quiz):
Last year, for the first time, local advertisers spent more on sites like Google.com or Monster.com than on local newspapers' sites. Internet companies got 44% of the $8.5 billion local advertisers spent online, newspaper companies got 33%, Yellow Pages sites got 10% and local-television sites got 9.3%, according to media research firm Borrell Associates.
Uh-oh. Obviously, the print local advertising business, while declining, still is much larger than that of any upstart competitor--for now. But newspapers are losing ground in the transition to online advertising among the local businesses that traditionally have been their bread and butter--the customers they must own, at all costs. It's not like the online companies have feet on the street going after those local advertisers--most of that business just comes in over the digital transom to Google, Monster, etc.
Lesson: Newspapers need better local online products to offer advertisers (and how), and need to be much smarter and more aggressive about how they sell them, i.e., not doing stupid bundling deals or sending print sales reps out to sell online or failing to understand that there are a lot of small local advertisers now searching for opportunities to spend money online and finding their local newspapers' offerings wanting.
The online ad business, especially locally, is really nothing like the print business, and newspapers need to grasp that, quickly, and adapt to survive. Self-service ads, telemarketing, contextual offerings--all of these are techniques that newspapers' online divisions need to move toward quickly to have a chance to win the local advertising arms race.
Failure to do so? Fatal. Absolutely fatal.