Newspaper apocalypse looming?

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 1:31 p.m. MST

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A new study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism highlights an alarming trend among newspapers hoping to carve out a modicum of profitability through digital ad revenues: with very few exceptions, news organizations are failing to cash in on a lucrative form of online advertising.

While it's long been held that utilizing consumer data to match advertisers with targeted consumers is "the strategy that many experts consider key to the future of digital revenue," the Pew study reveals, "With only a handful of exceptions, the ads on news sites tend not to be targeted based on the interests of users … (and) even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online. "

The non-profit journalism think tank Poynter Institute wrote Monday, "News organizations are doing a crummy job of capitalizing on online advertising’s growth. … Just three of the 22 outlets studied (by Pew) offered targeted advertising based on their readers’ searches, pages viewed or other activity."

The New York Times summed up the new study's major findings: "Web sites for newspapers, magazines and television stations might be hungry to make money with digital advertising, but you wouldn’t know it by the way some of them do business online. … In part, these sites were failing to attract online ads because they were not using technology that would customize ads based on their users’ online behavior."

Pew's analysis of newspaper viability in the digital age is rooted in the assumption that, if proper business practices are observed, there ought to be enough digital advertising moving forward for existing newspapers to survive. To that end, Forrester Research determined in October that "within the next five years, (television advertising) is going to be eclipsed by online ads."

E-mail: jaskar@desnews.com

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