Digital advertising to surpass print and TV for the first time, report says

Amazon's advertising business, the third largest in the United States, is projected to grow by more than 50% in 2019.
(Paul Sakuma / AP)
Washington Post

The money spent on digital advertising in the United States will surpass that on traditional ads for the first time this year, according to forecasts by eMarketer, representing a landmark inversion of how advertisers budget their resources and highlighting the rise of digital media as platforms to seek consumers’ attention.

By the end of the year, eMarketer expects companies to spend nearly $130 billion on digital ads, compared with about $110 billion on traditional advertisements, or about 54.2% of the ad market versus 46.8%, respectively. According to the research firm’s projections, spending on digital ads will continue to outpace that on traditional ads. By 2023, digital ads will capture more than two-thirds of all ad spending, according to the estimates.

The increase in digital ad dollars will come, in part, from sharp declines in key print ad formats including directories such as the Yellow Pages, whose ad spending will fall by 19%, and the print versions of newspapers and magazines where ad spending is expected to decrease by about 18%, eMarketer said. Ad spending on TV will decline 2.2% this year, to about $71 billion, eMarketer said, owing largely to the absence of elections and big sports events, such as the Olympics or World Cup.


“The steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenue which are disappearing in traditional media advertising,” eMarketer’s forecasting director Monica Peart said in a statement.

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The top two digital advertisers in the United States — Google and Facebook — are expected to maintain their dominant hold on ad dollars, as the tech giants’ combined ad revenue will command about 59% of the market, according to the forecasts. EMarketer projects Google’s share will drop slightly from 38.2% to 37.2%; Facebook’s share is expected to remain “virtually unchanged,” rising by less than half of a percentage point, from 21.8% to 22.1% this year.

While Facebook has been rocked by scandals, and is negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission over a multibillion dollar fine tied to its privacy practices, the company’s market share increase will be driven by Instagram, eMarketer said. “There’s strong demand for ads in Instagram Stories, and Instagram still benefits from the perception that it’s less impacted by the challenges core Facebook has faced,” eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in a statement.

Amazon, Microsoft and Verizon round out the top five digital advertisers, though the latter two are expected to lose ground in ad spending. Amazon’s advertising business, the third largest in the United States, is projected to grow by more than 50% in 2019, claiming a total of nearly 9% of the digital ad market.

“The platform is rich with shoppers’ behavioral data for targeting and provides access to purchase data in real-time,” said Peart. “This type of access was once only available through the retail partner, to share at their discretion. But with Amazon’s suite of sponsored ads, marketers have unprecedented access to the ‘shelves’ where consumers are shopping.”


EMarketer said it has adjusted its projections higher for Amazon following the company’s latest earnings report, “putting it on track to close the gap with No. 2 Facebook” in the digital ad market.

More than two-thirds of spending on digital ads this year will be dedicated to ads on mobile devices, eMarketer said, totaling more than $87 billion.