Online Ad Prices Set to Tumble?

By Josh Catone
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If your only revenue stream is advertising, you may want to look into diversifying and quickly. According to a number of key metrics, publishers, and analysts, the online ad market is starting to tank, and it is likely going to get worse before it gets better.

Here are some of the things have come out over the past month that have led to growing unease in the online advertising sector:

  • Pay-per-click ads on search engines tanked with the US stock market. Paul Edmonson, CEO of, told Wired that there was a 9% drop in ad prices across major search engines in a single day when the stock market dropped like a rock a couple of weeks ago. Prices have mostly recovered since then, but still aren’t back up as high as they were. “It’s very unusual for a large drop to occur,” said Edmondson.
  • According to the latest Ad Price Index from PubMatic, display ad prices dropped or stayed flat across all categories. Prices are down nearly 50% since Q4 2007, and have dropped every quarter this year.
  • According to the Rubicon Project, CPMs fell 11% on average across their 1,300 publisher clients between Q2 and Q3 this year.
  • JP Morgan analyst Imran Khan has lowered ad growth estimates for the second time in the past two months. The analyst predicts display ad growth at 6% in 2009, down from previous estimates of 16%, and search ad growth will be 17.3% next year, down from an earlier prediction 25.5%.
  • Blog mogul Nick Denton, the man behind the wildly successful Gawker Media, sees an even gloomier outlook. “Anyone who isn’t prepared for ads to go down 40 percent is crazy,” he said last week. As Silicon Alley Insider’s Peter Kafka says, though, Denton is always seeing doom just around the corner.
  • Google felt the need last week to reassure publishers via email that they were working to make sure ad rates stayed up. Many saw that as Google trying to keep publishers from jumping ship on their AdSense network.

According to PubMatic, ad prices have fallen each of the past four quarters.

As the global economy continues to show signs of weakening, the advertising industry is clearly taking a hit and conventional wisdom needs to be thrown out the window. If advertising is your only revenue stream, you need to find new ways to bring in money as soon as you can.

As a publisher, how has your ad revenue looked over the past quarter? How about compared with this time last year? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

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  • Looking good! =)

    Sucks for them…

  • cccapital

    With all the bad economic new floating around on main stream media, its a no brainer that ad revenues will decrease. I’m sure there is at least another 25-50% drop across the board before we start to see any type of growth. Things will only get worse for the next 6 months until there is some stabilization in the capital markets in the US. Things are a mess right now. It’s funny they still stay away from the “r” world, but all economic factors are pointing that we’ve already entered a recession months ago and will be well into late 2009.

  • ryguy4025



  • Edman

    For me, Adsense income has been decreasing on a nearly monthly basis. In Oct 2008 I published 2 times more impressions than Oct 2007 and earned 2 times less, so that’s a CPM decrease of 4 times. I sure as hell am jumping ship pretty darn soon.

  • Stevie D

    This is news?
    My revenue from GoogleAds dropped by about 60% from September to October, even though the impressions and click-through rate stayed about the same, because the payment per click fell through the floor. In times of recession, advertising revenue is usually one of the first things to drop off, so why should we be surprised that we are already seeing the effects of it on internet ads?

  • The future looks uncertain for publishers. I’m a publisher and not worried yet. The past two months I’ve sold a lot more advertising than I did this time last year. A lot of small businesses still need to get their name out there and they can’t afford to be scared off by economic turmoil. For them it’s sink or swim, no way they can wait to weather the storm. Those small businesses with advertising budgets are still going to spend them.

  • This is old news for me.
    My site revenue from valueclick has been in the “tank” for 8 months. I,m currently making 50 percent of last years earnings with the same number of site impressions. I think I need a Bailout!