Auto Decline Not Bringing Local Media Down–as Much as It Could Have

Since I elaborated on my auto industry/news industry analogy the other day, I wanted to point to this article describing how the auto industry’s woes haven’t brought down local media as much as it might have. As I’ve been pointing out for some time, auto advertising accounts for a huge chunk of local advertising.

Local traditional media — television, radio and newspapers — are more reliant on automotive advertising than any other medium. In 2008, TV stations got 23 percent of their total advertising from auto, followed by local newspapers at 17 percent and radio stations at 14 percent, according to a Sanford C. Bernstein & Company report released this month.

And the amount of advertising manufacturers, co-op, and individual dealers are buying has declined by numbers that almost match the decline in auto sales.

Local automotive ads come from three sources: Companies like Ford and Toyota take out some ads on local television to promote their new models, in addition to their nationwide ads. Local dealers also pool money, helped out by the corporation, to promote their brand of cars regionally. Then, each dealership takes out television, radio and newspaper ads to list its autos for sale or special discounts.

The ads from automakers — running nationally and locally — fell 19 percent in the first quarter of 2009, compared with a year earlier, according to research firm TNS Media Intelligence. Ads from dealer associations fell 62 percent, while ads from the individual local dealers declined almost 40 percent.


Auto advertising in local media declined more than twice as fast as it did in national media in 2008 compared with 2007, according to Bernstein. But it has been so bad already this year that local media managers say they believe they have absorbed much of the pullback in auto advertising.

But the recent further cutbacks associated with the Chrysler and GM bankruptcy have not hit local media still further, largely because the dealers that got closed really weren’t selling that many cars, and because the ones that are left are increasing their advertising. Plus the dealers that shifted into used sales are re-introducing themselves to consumers.

Obviously, the auto industry is so big that it’s linked with everything. That’s particularly true, however, of the auto industry and media. This is an interesting snapshot of how that’s working out.

20 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I wonder how much changes in the newspaper industry have also changed advertising sales; if papers like the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and the Booth Newspapers in smaller Michigan cities are any example, there’s only three print editions per week.

  2. rapt says:

    OK I’ll be a stick-in-the-mud as usual.

    Anything that reduces media power is alright with me. Some weakening of the propaganda arm never hurts. Auto industry, well, it had to take a hit too, like everybody else, but that subject has been discussed plenty here already.

    • perris says:

      the real answer is to break them up so they are not arms of corporate propaganda

      we really cannot have consolidated media and ruppert murdoch must be broken up

  3. perris says:

    today, on the front page of the newsday, the lead story is how scrappy the new york mets are

    this is why newspapers are failing

  4. fatster says:

    A friend of mine stumbled on this blog, which is new to me, too.

    This particular entry addresses the diminishing print media and the tee vee wasteland from the perspective of participants in the recent “Chicago Media Future Conference”:

    “From entertainification, to the price of paper, to the collapse of ad revenue, to an unsustainable, debt-based business model, there are certainly a lot of knife wounds in journalism’s gut, but one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is this: the radical narrowing, shortening and dumbing-down of the apertures through which knowledge itself passes.’…..earst.html

  5. perris says:

    I’ve noticed locally all newspapers have shrunk in physical length to save paper and money

    however this was done by all of them all at once…sounds like collusion

    • prostratedragon says:

      MIght have to do with what stock the paper industry makes available. If what we used to think of as broadsheet is a special run, then the newspaper org pays a premium for it.

      At least that’s roughly the story that NYT, ChiTrib, and WSJ in turn gave for their rather silly (imo) narrower sizes, and I know that in book publishing there’s a paper constraint.

      • freepatriot says:


        paper is made in sheets about 20 feet wide, and any width of paper that is needed can be produced simply by dropping a slitter wheel onto a drum anvil at the appropriate place

        want paper that is 2 inches wider ???

        move the slitter wheel over two inches

        all it takes is a “Tee Handled Allen wrench” and a ruler

        so much for “special orders”

        ps, I once worked in a printing plant that converted rolls of paper into stacks of computer paper; from widths of 24 to 48 inches to boxes in widths from 8.5 to 15 inches wide, so I know what I’m talkin bout

        • Rayne says:

          The real challenge is paper, period. Paper and its incumbent printing process requires huge amounts of capital, personnel, energy, and forces news to locate at a specific place for distribution and reach.

          Newspaper outlets can make all kinds of excuses; sometimes it sounds as if they genuinely don’t grok the problem. The demands of physical distribution has squeezed them out of business, combined the loss of advertisers who need to be more flexible in their placement of ads because they cannot be tied to physical distribution, only to location or reach of advertising which matches their own physical limits of distribution.

    • fatster says:

      Certainly they’re talking to one another, sharing what’s being done to try and survive. Seems to me there was a meeting or conference just a few weeks ago devoted to such concerns. It’s hitting them all. Right now, Sunday only delivery of the SF Chronicle has gotten so expensive that I’m probably going to drop it. And this after subscribing for many decades. Sure am going to miss those word puzzles!

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, think of how much volume the car companies have paid for. According to these numbers, that’s 7% of their advertising right there–and really bulky ads.

  6. BoxTurtle says:

    The local newspaper, the Dayton Daily News, has dumbed down to just above “See spot run”, their local stories are of suspect accuracy, and any national news is delayed 2-3 DAYS from the time I read it on the net.

    Perhaps the reason we’re not seeing much damage is that the damage was already done.

    If I want a new car, I pretty much know what I want and I visit the dealers to see who will give me the best deal. If I want a used car, I buy a copy of Autotrader.

    I subscribed to that paper or it’s predcessor for about 20 years and my parents before me. I dropped it about 5 years ago and I don’t miss it a bit.

    Boxturtle (Would resubscribe to the Old Dayton Journal Herald if only it exists)

  7. prostratedragon says:

    OT but encouraged by @11: I see driftglass is up on the education of Chicago’s Very Own Baby Dick, who has taken his shortsheet act on the road to Lausanne and the IOC, thinking he could force them to enforce what he had an opportunity to ask (!) the City Council for, but would not.

    If you want to see what decades of systematic cruelty can do to an electorate, look no further.

  8. Rayne says:

    Frying pan? agreed, but the source of the heat is not fully quantified. With multiple sources competing for advertising dollars ( et al for employer want ads as just one example) and multiple, highly granular venues competing for attention (cable TV and highly targeted internet content), newspapers weren’t the end-all, be-all for auto advertising, just as newspapers weren’t the end-all, be-all for news.

    There’s an opportunity to place this mix in Chris Anderson’s “long-tail” model, and study whether/how advertisers and news will follow the same trend in the wake of techonological and social disruption.

  9. freepatriot says:

    I can imagine what the newspapers are using to fill ad space that was formerly used by auto dealers

    ads for dick lenghteners, baldness cures, and incontinence products

    I’m sure big pharma is there to take up the slack

    I don’t read any daily dead tree media, so I can’t be sure

    but that’s what’s been filling my sports illustrated lately

    and I’ll bet that half page of small print disclaimers stuff costs plenty

  10. fatster says:

    It’s more than paper, though. Take a little trip down memory lane with me and my friend.

    Remember this?

    “There was never any doubt that FCC chair Kevin Martin, a Bush-Cheney administration appointee and acolyte, would lead the two other Republican members of the commission to a 3-2 endorsement of a move to begin dismantling the historic “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban which has long served as the only barrier to the buying by one powerful individual or corporation of newspapers, television and radio stations and other media outlets in a community.”

    And this?

    ‘”According to an article on MSNBC a report, written by two economists in the FCC’s Media Bureau, showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of ‘on-location’ news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. Senior managers at the agency ordered that ‘every last piece’ of the report be destroyed.”‘…..15/1933256

    And this?

    Last stop before the media monopoly
    FCC chairman Michael Powell is likely to get media ownership deregulated — even though public comment is running 97 percent against it.

    By Eric Boehlert

    (And I had mercifully archived any memory I had of Little Powell.)…..index.html

    • Rayne says:

      and to freep (19) too –

      Notice how that moron Limbaugh and his talk radio peeps aren’t having the same collapse of market as newspapers? Notice how television isn’t, either, regardless of the number of outlets an owner can acquire?

      And why is it newspapers regardless of size and concentration of ownership across the country are all experiencing the same problem?

      It’s about paper, in that paper represents a highly limited distribution channel, now forced to compete with a distribution channel which is far less expensive and pervasive in many regions of the country.

      You can argue that start-up and sunk costs have been addressed, but the cost to buy, process and distribute paper is much more volatile; it’s also an expense versus a capital budget item. At the same, while costs for fuel and paper move up/down in tandem with fuel costs and inflation, advertisers are leaving for other venues which are more highly targeted and in many cases less expensive than newspaper advertising.

  11. freepatriot says:

    The real challenge is paper, period. Paper and its incumbent printing process requires huge amounts of capital, personnel, energy, and forces news to locate at a specific place for distribution and reach.

    that’s not really relevant to this conversation. All of that is associated with start-up costs and proceedures. (been there, done that)

    what we’re talkin bout here are people who are already buying tons of paper. In that case, it’s all about ordering up or down to size.

    there ain’t no side trim in this type of printing. the rolls come in specific widths for the job (single, or double wide, or more) they weigh about a ton. they’re run thru a machine that prints it, trims it to size (usually split in two) cuts it and folds it, and stacks it in neat bundles

    it takes between 20 and 40 minutes to convert a roll of paper into a stack of newspapers (depending on the speed of the machine, I’ve run paper at 2000 feet per minute)

    and just about everything but the length is adjustable

    what happened here is probably related to fookin paper salesmen. they convince one company to reduce the width, then tell all the other companies about the great cost benefits, and viola, every daily newspaper in America is two inches narrower

    I should probably confess that I hold the paper salesman responsible for every bad batch of paper I ever had to fuck with …

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