Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Online Ad Slowdown, by the Numbers

Not content to blab in my ear about the impending collapse of the advertising business, Gawker Media’s Nick Denton is continuing his “end is nigh” campaign. Last night his employee, Owen Thomas, summarized a doom-saying essay he says Denton is about (?) to publish on his personal site. At the same time, Denton was hosting a “doom-mongering” event at his corporate HQ, where he presumably made the same predictions.

Don’t care what what a man who publishes gossip blogs predicts will happen to the ad market? Fair enough.Here are some actual data from the front lines: Online advertising sales results from Jupiter Media (JUPM), an odd collection of Web sites, trade shows and (until last month), stock photography businesses.

To spell that out–Jupiter is reporting that revenue per online advertiser dropped 29.6 percent in the last quarter, which ended Sept. 30. And recall that the financial meltdown didn’t really hit until the last two weeks of September.

The net effect: Jupiter’s online media business declined 4.6 percent in that quarter. What do you think the current quarter will look like?

If you want to argue that Jupiter’s an outlier, and that big Web players like Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) are still going to be fine, you’re not alone. Yesterday, for instance, someone at Condé Nast’s Web publishing unit told me the company’s still forecasting high single-digit to low double-digit revenue increases for 2009.

But recall that Time Warner’s AOL (TWX) just recorded a six percent ad revenue drop during its third quarter. At some point Nick Denton is going to look less paranoid and more prescient.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik