Online Ad Spending to Pass Print for the First Time, Forecast Says

Publishers Are Also Collecting Online Ad Revenue, but Print Will Fall Behind

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Online advertising spending will cruise past print in the United States this year for the first time, according to a new forecast by eMarketer.

Online ad spending in the U.S. grew 23% to $32.03 billion in 2011 and will grow 23.3% more to $39.5 billion in 2012, eMarketer said. That will put it above total U.S. magazine and newspaper spending, which will fall 6.1% to $36 billion this year, said the report.

Print ad spending in magazines will actually tick up to $15.4 billion from $15.3 billion, according to eMarketer. Magazine and newspaper publishers themselves enjoy rising digital ad revenue, which isn't included in the "print" total being surpassed in this forecast. And marketers and agencies are starting to resist paying for online ads that many people never see.

But online advertising's eclipse of a traditional media pillar -- one that remains the dominant revenue source for magazine and newspaper publishers -- would still represent a watershed in the media business.

"Advertisers' comfort level with integrated marketing is greater than ever, and this is helping more advertisers -- and more large brands -- put a greater share of dollars online," David Hallerman, eMarketer principal analyst, said in a statement accompanying the forecast.

EMarketer derives its forecast by analyzing and incorporating media companies' ad revenue reports, using sources such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Newspaper Association of America, and estimates from other firms that track ad spending.

Total ad spending will grow 6.7% to $169.5 billion in 2012, eMarketer said, improving on the 3.4% gain in 2011 despite a slow economy, thanks to the elections and the Summer Olympics.

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