Have we recovered from the Great Recession?

Of course, any keen observer of the trade media and info business landscape knows the answer is no. The industry has not regained the ground it lost in the Great Recession — in all but a few vertical segments, such as travel and ag media, revenue is down, still way down for some. But it is interesting to look at the actual dollars behind the recovery, and to consider the current oh-so-slow pace at which the industry is crawling back uphill.

Bar graph showing total b-to-b media industry revenue, 2008-2012

Total industry revenue fell a precipitous 16.1 percent from 2008 to 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Revenue was flat-to-down the next year, and finally has started to regain ground in 2011 (a good year) and 2012 (a flat-to-up year).

So what does that suggest for future prospects? In January, ABM asked 43 media CEOs about their expectations for the coming year. Only 7 percent of CEOs assessed current business conditions as negative, and just 2 percent thought that conditions will be worse next year at this time.

Moreover, in March ABM asked 74 marketers about their advertising budget plans for the coming 12 months, and 48 percent reported that they expect ad budgets to increase, while only 5 percent are expecting a decrease. That was part of ABM’s Value of B-to-B research project.

So if we take an optimistic viewpoint and assume that the pace of recovery based on the last three years will continue onwards for the next three, a guesstimated 3.9 percent growth rate will get us back at 2008 revenue levels in 2015. Of course, projecting future growth is a fool’s game, so take that with a grain of salt.

Note: The revenue figures in the graph above are inflation-adjusted to 2012 dollars, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator. The base numbers are calculated by ABM in its BIN Report, as recently reported.

By Michael Moran Alterio

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