In the early 1950s, television was popular, but unsophisticated. This was a common sentiment, even among the people who produced it—"a hybrid monstrosity derived from newspapers, radio news, and newsreels, which inherited none of the merits of its ancestors," as one CBS News anchor summed it up. But either despite its gimmicky shortcomings or because of them, advertisers loved the little box. Revenue from ads increased more than 60 percent a year for the first five years of the decade, so that by 1955, television accounted for nearly 20 percent of total U.S. media advertising.
This year, mobile media accounts for the exact same share, nearly 20 percent of total U.S. media spending. So, in a very real way, mobile is today where television was exactly six decades ago.
For more than a century, media organizations working in newspapers, magazines, television, and radio have relied on advertising to report and publish the news. It was a sometimes awkward, and often fruitful, symbiosis of needs. The news created an audience of readers, the advertiser paid to piggyback off that audience, and this commercial tag-team subsidized both reportage and readership.
That’s precisely why anybody in the news business should be more than a little alarmed at the recent migration patterns in advertising, exhaustively documented in the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report. In a sentence, digital is eating legacy media, mobile is eating digital, and two companies, Facebook and Google, are eating mobile. Here is the broader scary story in four charts, from the Pew report and from other sources supporting up its main points.