The critical point at which the growth of digital advertising makes up half the measureable advertising economy in the UK is fast approaching, according to media buyer Group M.
Figures released yesterday by Group M show online has risen from a tenth of the ad market in 2005 to a projected 43.6 percent in 2013, with growth of 14 percent this year.
I tested this reading of the stats with Group M and Adam Smith, futures director, told me the real proportion of online ads of the total is about a quarter. It's all about what you can measure: "You are right that online is about 40 percent of ‘measured’ UK media (TV, print, cinema, OOH, radio and online).
"The number comes down to 25 percent if you widen the universe to all else we cover in the UK survey (direct mail, directories, sponsorship, market research, PR). That universe would be larger still if we knew the size of couponing, field marketing, content creation and so on.
So that clears that up. But what about the big picture?
Digital dollars, physical dimes
Group M says that total UK advertising will rise 3.4 percent this year to £13.2 billion- more than in other major European countries, but lagging behind GDP growth (the difference between the two is crucial). The Olympic effect is real, but will boost sponsorships and brand partnerships rather than advertising spend. Here are the stats you need to know, plus why they matter.
-- Digital media is expected to reach £5.3 billion this year, a 14 percent rise on 2011, and almost £6 billion in 2013, a rise of 11 percent.
-- That digital's rise mirrors exactly the 11 percent annual drop in regional media spend, falling to £971 million in 2013. It's also notable that regional media is now outweighed by national papers in terms of adspend - the classifieds market that once propped up regional publishers has well and truly been disrupted.
-- Over in the national newspaper sector, things are falling less quickly - £1.2 billion in 2012 will drop by five percent to £1.1 billion in 2013.
-- Consumer magazines don't get off lightly: the sector will make £836 million in ads this year, a year-on-year drop of £74 million.
-- Even television, the Teflon-coated, recession-proof sector is suffering. Group M's bullish prediction of a three percent rise this year is downgraded to a minimal 0.1 percent rise to £3.5 billion - a difference of £70 million.
What this means: An oft-heard expression in newsrooms and among senior publishers is that £1 in print translates to a penny, or less, online. With the drop in CPM rates from the heady heights of the mid-2000s, that's no doubt true for many.
But here's the thing: there are marketers who will increasingly only market online. By not embracing online ads - whether it's search, mobile, display, video - you will be shutting out almost half the advertising spend in the UK.
A smaller slice of the pie
If anything, the figures for the share of media over the years is more alarming for people not getting a sizeable slice of the growing internet pie. Compare the way the ad market looked in 2005...
With the way it will look in 2013, according to Group M...
And think about whether media businesses are set up to deal with the first picture or the second one.
Online has grown from 10.8 percent of total UK adspend in 2005 to a projected 43.6 percent in 2013. With a growth rate of more than 10 percent in 2013 it might only be a year before online is half of the UK's ad economy.
What this means: I've said it before, and no doubt will do again, but this whole online ads business has to stop being about reach and clicks. Google and Faceook are the ad-selling companies gobbling up all that growth coming into the market, with top 10 websites coming after the rest.
Publishers simply can't compete with that. And nor should they. By increasing end-user revenues through better products and subscription plans, and more intelligent advertising models that set a floor price for impressions instead of accepting peanuts via ad networks, they won't have to.