Wonder why your local newspaper is folding, why your favorite Internet sites are struggling, or why network TV is devolving into a blur of cheaply-produced, brain-addling reality shows?  The reliable A.C. Nielsen Company has the answer in its recently released survey of advertising revenues for 2008, which found that the recession, which began mid-year, precipitated a 2.6% drop in overall ad spending for the year.


The print media category was hurt the worst with local newspapers’ ad revenue down 10.2%, and local Sunday supplements off 11%.  Ad spending in national newspapers fell 9.6%, while national magazine advertising declined by 7.6%.  The carnage in the newspaper business has been well covered in the national media, but less well-known is the fact that 545 magazines went belly-up in 2008 (with 47 more having shut down so far in 2009).


Newer forms media were also affected.  Internet ad revenues were down 6.4%, while network TV’s ad support was off 3.5% and network radio’s down 3.3%.  The sole bright spots were cable TV (up 7.8%) and Hispanic cable TV (up 9.6%).


Proctor & Gamble cut its ad spending by 19.3%, while hard-hit automakers Chrysler (off 31.2%), Ford (down 28.5%) and GM (-14.9%) followed suit.  You know you are in a recession when the only categories that are spending more on advertising are fast-food chains (up 3.8%) and those pesky “direct response” infomercial-type, “not available in stores” advertisers (up 9.2%), who have greatly expanded the use of  one-minute and 30-second versions of their huckster spiels in venues such as the nightly network newscasts.