Erik Sherman's WriterBiz

A spot about the business of writing as seen by a freelance writer. That includes marketing, sales, contracts, copyright, planning, research - in short, the business end of writing.

Name: Erik Sherman
Location: Massachusetts, United States

I'm an independent writer and photographer who covers business, food, technology, books, media, general features, and pretty much anything appealing that results in a signed check. My work has appeared in such places as the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Newsweek Japan, Fortune, Inc, Fortune Small Business, the Financial Times, Advertising Age, Saveur, US News & World Report, and Continental

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One More Point on an Ad Slowdown

BusinessWeek had an excellent point the other day: ad sales slow down in advance of magazine publication. Sometimes the ads sell well before issues close, particularly with larger (read as more important) advertisers that buy on frequency-based contracts. Getting assignments today only means that there are enough ads to cover the issue coming out in a month or two. Where the real issue is likely to arise is mid-November to December, when publications are now considering February or later. That's when a big slowdown in ad spending is more likely to begin, and that would trigger making magazines smaller and, therefore, reducing the number of editorial pages.
How the dollars flow—or rather don't flow—in any downturn can shape events in ways obscured until much later. As strange as it sounds today, the tech bust that started in 2000 meant that total dollars spent on online display advertising declined 21% between 2001 and 2002. And as strange as it sounds today, many established media organizations used that decline as a rationale for deemphasizing the Web in favor of their traditional businesses—and underinvestment allowed all manner of Web-only startups to outflank them in the one medium that's still growing. While online display ads will still be up in '09, says BMO Capital Markets analyst Leland Westerfield, that growth rate will likely slow. Look for search advertising to hold up, so Google should be hurt the least.
In other words, the reaction to a business slowdown sometimes takes some time to manifest. Don't expect the web to escape, though given the more favorable economics (no paying for paper or print) it could be that publishers will emphasize online even more than they are now. One analyst is predicting a 5.5 percent pullback in ad spending, which is worse than it sounds because markets expect business to increase, so the perceived drop from expectations could run closer to 10 percent, causing executives to worry (stock performance being seen as a reflection of their efforts) and cut expenses even more.

There's nothing you can do about ad slowdowns themselves. Just look for alternative work or sectors that aren't likely to be hit as hard. The main thing is to start pushing now to find alternatives. If you know that things might slow down more significantly in a couple of months, that gives you some time to react.

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