Behind the Money

Online Advertising, Led by Google, to Pass Print Officially This Year

After a steady transition over the last decade, totalU.S. online advertising revenue will officially surpass spending for ads in newspapers and magazines this year, according to forecasts from multiple research firms.

One of those firms, eMarketer, predicts online spending will jump 20 percent to almost $40 billion this year, compared to a six percent decline to $33.8 billion for print.

This follows another 20 percent-plus gain in Internet ad spending that brought the sector within $4 billion of surpassing newspapers and magazines last year, according to the firm.

Leading the way is the world’s largest search engine, Google , which Thursday evening reported a 25 percent jump in revenue for the fourth quarter. Google gets the bulk of its revenue from advertisements generated through search, but it is steadily increasing its share in the online display ad market.

Google took a hit in Friday’s trading as investors grew concerned that the company is paying more to keep those ad clicks coming. Still, the shares are up 20 percent over the last five years, compared to a 67 percent drop in shares of The New York Times over the same period.

With this digital hand-off officially happening, the question emerges: is there a contrarian investment to be made on old media companies as they finally figure out their own digital strategy?

After all, digital revenues for the newspaper industry will jump 11 percent to $3.7 billion this year, forecasts eMarketer. This follows an eight percent increase last year, they said.

Investors remain unconvinced.

“The only reason to buy New York Times is for the buyout, but that is not something I am betting on,” said Michael Murphy of hedge fund Rosecliff Capital. “This is not a contrarian buy. It is catching a falling knife that is very sharp and has more room to fall.”

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