Where Are All the Ad Dollars Going?

Posted on by Larry

Recently, Philip Hodgetts began writing about “The Death of Advertising” in his blog. His thoughts resonated with me because, like many of us, I’m looking for ways to reach new customers, and to help other companies reach new customers through me.

Clearly, traditional audiences for print and broadcast media are melting away, along with ad budgets forced to contract in this recession. However, the need to find new customers for companies large and small does not go away, even when economic times are bad.

You can read Philip’s original blog here: What Will Replace Advertising?

Last Thursday, Philip was on the Digital Production BuZZ with further thoughts on this subject that I found interesting and want to share with you.

Click here to listen to Philip’s interview on The BuZZ. (TRT: 6:00 – 7.8 MB)

After the interview, Philip sent me a link to a presentation that provides more details, which you can view here.

I don’t doubt that Philip is correct – advertising is and must change. But here’s my problem with his proposed solution: as ads get woven more into the fabric of the communication – TV show, radio program, website – it becomes harder and harder to distinguish what is advertising and what is “programming.”

Let me give two specific examples from my personal experience. I believe that it is important for video production professionals to have access to (as best as can be obtained) unbiased opinions and reviews of products and technology. That what caused me to start my Final Cut Studio newsletter over six years ago, and continues as the driving force behind much of what I do in my writing, training, and broadcasting work today.

However, all of us need to eat, including me, so I’ve been contacting potential sponsors to see if there are ways we can work together. Their replies have been interesting.

Many want to rent my email list to create their own promotional blasts. However, my list is not for rent. Never has been. Never will.

Others want to pay for me to review products in my newsletter. However, any review that I write about is based either on gear that I’ve purchased, or which is loaned to me for the purposes of the review. I don’t accept payments for a review – that becomes a very slippery downhill slope.

I’m currently investigating a radio show focused on video production – but sponsors are unwilling sponsor unless I talk ONLY about their products. Or, include personal testimonials endorsing their products. This creates a VERY fine line between providing information and becoming a shill.

If I were doing entertainment programming – adding a product placement or creating a scene around a product – probably wouldn’t bother me, its only “entertainment” after all. But the situation changes as we move out of entertainment into information and news. Here, the changes Philip suggests don’t work as well.

How do we interest a sponsor in funding news that isn’t always good? How do we fund sources on the web that work hard to deliver meaningful information? If web ads don’t work, and I agree with Philip that their usefulness is very limited, what can we do to attract attention to sites that deserve it, as opposed to sites that are just making noise?

It is a very puzzling situation – one that I am still working to figure out. In fact, we are all trying to find answers to the marketing puzzle. I thought Philip’s thoughts were useful signposts along the way.

I actively encourage your comments and feedback, using the links below. As always, I love hearing from you.


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UPDATE – Nov. 3, 2009

Philip Hodgetts sent me a new link that furthers the discussion on how we are going to collect, distribute, and pay for news. You can read it here:


For me, the key phrase is in the second paragraph: “Advertising won’t be one-stop shopping anymore and that means it may support news less.” And the thought that if news becomes entrepreneurial, it becomes very, very easy for the large to intimidate the small. Imagine what would have happened during the McCarthy era if CBS News was a one-person operation run out of a basement. Or if the Washington Post was two-people, and no lawyers, looking into the Watergate break-in. Or, when Apple took on two rumor sites a couple of years ago for reporting gossip — in this last case, both sites stopped publishing.

What we are potentially losing is the balance of size and power necessary between the media and the companies, and governments, they report on. Big is not better – but it does make intimidation harder.

More things to think about.

3 Responses to Where Are All the Ad Dollars Going?

  1. I think big is definitely NOT better in terms of media. In fact, what we think of “the media” (or Forth Estate) is so vastly different than what the Founding Fathers of the USA where thinking. In fact I’ve argued that we need a Fifth Estate now to moderate the non-existent fourth estate. Non-existent in that the corporatized media have no incentive to be the balance to the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government and to call those to task. Certainly the current big media has totally failed on that important task.

    In the day of the Founding Fathers, the “news” was much more like the small blogger-in-the-basement than what we think it is now. There were hundreds of small, diverse media outlets and I think one of the promises of the Internet is that we will go back to that situation with a new Fifth Estate.


  2. Nick Savides says:

    Hey Larry,
    I’m sure it must be a challenge to find sponsorship that doesn’t compromise the integrity of what you do, but I appreciate your effort to keep the information you provide untainted by the money you receive.

    I’ve been aware of your work and your training, but now that I’m switching over to a Mac for video-editing, I’ll probably check out more of your training soon.

    Thanks for keeping us informed.

  3. Tim Johnson says:

    To Philips point….”I think big is definitely NOT better in terms of media.”… I currently work as a producer for Tribune, a large media company, that I believe is grappling with the ultimate question… “Are we too big to succeed”. Only time will tell and while I think this company is trying to innovate it’s heart out… it may just be too late. In the attention economy, advertisers who aren’t going to spend big, are going to lose big… and even spending big is no longer a guarantee.

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