Despite all the predictions last year about online advertising's solidity in the face of recession, the new thinking is that it will remain positive as other ad categories rack up declines. BernsteinResearch's Jeff Lindsay's call that global online ad spend will grow only 5.9 percent4.1 percent in the U.S. and 7.2 percent overseasis slightly more optimistic than the recent spate of downward revisions by other analysts. Earlier this week, Veronis Suhler said it expected web ad dollars to rise only 4.9 percent over 2008, on a total ad spend slide of -0.4 percent and yesterday, IDC said (sub req.) indicated that it would probably halve its previous 10 percent growth forecast for online ads when it releases its full 2009 outlook in next month. Still, analysts like UBS' Matthieu Coppet have issued more dire prospects for online revenues this year, as calling for a 1.4 percent rise over last year.
Interestingly, Lindsay is more bearish than Veronis Suhler on total ad spend, anticipating a 1.7 percent drop in the U.S. and an 8.3 percent fall worldwide. Looking at particular segments, in line with other industry observers, Bernstein says paidsearch will remain the largest online ad sector for thenext five years, accounting for 35 percent of all global online ad spend this year. Worldwide, search will grow 11.3 percent (up 11.4 percent in the U.S. and with 26.6 percent gains in China).
Meanwhile, the forecaster anticipates a 1.5 percent decline in display. The category's share should fall slightly from 26 percent of worldwide online advertising last year to 24 percent in 2009 as web video and mobile internet ads come into their own.
As for individual companies, display bellwether Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) has seen its CPMs have hold up best compared to its major rivals, AOL (NYSE: TWX), which witnessed CPMs drop 39 percent and MSN, which saw CPMs fall 9 percent. The reason for Yahoo's comparative strength is due to its salesforce-based sales modelsomething AOL hopes to emulate by hiring former Yahoo exec Greg Coleman to lead Platform-Ainstead of the ad net model used by its competitors.
By David Kaplan