Denton-the-Bear Sees Major Digital Ad Recession

Gawker publisher and digital sourpuss Nick Denton just posted a screed arguing digital media are screwed in 2009.

According to Denton, “The sector’s maturity…means that its underlying growth is more sluggish than it was in the late 1990s. In 2001, Internet advertising swung to a 13% decline from 78% growth the previous year; this time the sector starts from a growth rate of 27%; I would hate to see what a swing as violent as the dotcom burst would look like.”

Of course, Denton’s doomsaying is congenital. His gloominess has helped him stand out during the boom years, when a thousand start-ups blossomed (and started selling ads), and has cushioned the blow each time he’s reduced blogger pay or laid people off.

But deep down he knows digital media will thrive in a downturn, simply because it’s more measurable. Right?

Not really. To anyone clinging to that oft-invoked point, Denton has this to say: “Sure, marketers and their agencies can track engagement and clicks in great detail online; but it’s still only television advertising that can demonstrate a correlation between spending and a boost to a marketer’s sales.”

In Denton’s view, there is a silver lining. For one, publishers may be able to renegotiate contracts with ad vendors. Financially sound firms like DoubleClick and PointRoll will be flexible on pricing to keep business during the downswing.

Secondly, marketers may find themselves on the receiving end of better service from publishers.

“Internet publishers have forced marketers into a straightjacket of standard ad units too small for brands to breathe,” Denton writes. “If the sector is to capture a larger share of brand advertising from magazines and television, the creative needs to have more impact.”

To that end, he notes Gawker offers three original ad units: a 1,000×250 “marquis at the top of each page; an extra-wide “panorama,” and its sponsored post format. Denton recommends other publishers do the same.

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