It didn’t take long for most newspapers to put virtually all of their content online, but making money on the Web will take a lot longer.
Newspapers’ online ad sales range from 4 percent to 14 percent of their total ad sales, according to a report issued today by Merrill Lynch media analyst Lauren Fine.
Online sales have grown at a high rate “albeit generally moderating a bit,” she wrote.
“Even if the rapid growth continues for the next few years, we don’t see online representing over 50% of newspaper ad revenues for at least a couple of decades, suggesting that industry profit could stay flat for the foreseeable future,” she wrote.
If she’s right, expect papers to start charging for online subscriptions and being more aggressive about enforcing online copyright protection.
On the bright side, at least she sees newspapers being around in 20 years.