What if advertising wasn't in a recession, but dying?

downward-trendIt would create a permanent fissure in the media world.

The question of whether plummeting advertising numbers are representative more of a broader trend than just the economy was the focus of an interesting post from James Fallows of the Atlantic, as I found from Philadelphia Inquirer online editor Chris Krewson.

The real problem is, advertising is dying. It’s just pulling down newspapers along the way. Next up: TV, radio, and Google.

This is why I was warning anyone who would listen that traditional media’s schadenfreude when the internet bubble popped in 2001 was probably misplaced. Because the reason it popped was one finally had the metrics to show Advertising Doesn’t Work. Google has forestalled the inevitable by doing the Net equivalent of the “tiny little ads” schtick of a decade or two back, but I think they see the writing on the wall, which is why they keep trying so desperately to find something, anything, other than search that’ll make money…. [Source]

Read that story.

It’s why I’ve come to obsessively murmur to myself: Advertising cannot be King. It’s that obsession I’m taking to any side projects I involve myself in, from Technically Philly to NEastPhilly to any others. I won’t even stop with an idea if advertising is the only means of rational profit.

Everyone needs to look at alternative revenue models, newspapers, startups or even social networks.

I’m a believer in fostering community around a very specific niche — whether coverage, demographic, geographic or otherwise. The hope is the community will support you, want to support you, in order to see you thrive.

There has been much heralded news about the Associated Press making plans to begin distributing nonprofit investigative reporting — among others news from the 163-year-old news organization. That’s a real shot at a future where advertising becomes a less and less sensible profit model — not only are there so many more outlets, but folks are also rethinking its influence. It’s a world where the heaviest investigative journalism would be done by nonpartisan nonprofits and the daily news covered by those community-specific entities.

If advertising is really failing more seriously than just a recession, it will have to work.