Why Newspapers *Love* Cars

Next time you flick through a newspaper, or look at a news website just take note of how much of the advertising is for cars, or car-related products, such as insurance. It’s truly remarkable, but not when you look at the stats:

  • Global spend on automotive advertising is around $40 billion USD. That’s the same as Uruguay’s entire GDP and about 8% of the world’s entire advertising spend. (Kelsey Group report)
  • Put another way, $1 in every $12 spent on advertising anything, anywhere on the planet is spent on advertising cars.
  • In the United States automotive advertising spend is estimated to be $22.6 billion in 2011, up 7.2% on last year, and second only to supermarkets. (Borrell Associates Report)
  • Newspapers in particular are increasingly reliant on car ads, with spend up 9.4% this year when other sources of revenue are falling. (medialifemagazine.com)
  • In the UK car ads are worth more than £1/2 billion sterling per year, that’s about 8% of all advertising spend in the country.  (blog post in the Guardian by a non-staffer)

Editorial support must come with that level of advertising spend. People who work in traditional media need advertising to pay their wages. It is an increasingly difficult business to be in. As politicos relied on the support of Rupert Murdoch, so do journalists on that of the motor industry. Another unhealthy relationship.

Thus we end up with the bizarre situation, as we did earlier this year, of a liberal newspaper hosting what they billed as an ‘important debate’ about electric vehicles, sponsored by…guess-who?:

We are faced with oil wars, chaos in the middle east, massive demand from the far east, gas piped through the balkans, energy price crises at home, terrorism threats to our infrastructure, rising food prices driven by bio-fuel crops, the fall-out from Fukushima, oil spills due to over-adventurous drilling, regular catastrophic weather events and global warming. If ever there was a time to debate radical options…

…but thanks to the power of vested interests the only meaningful debate or radical discussion of the future of transport is being conducted by us amateurs in our spare time.

Let’s try to be positive and think of it as Big Society journalism, shall we?

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Cars are brilliant, but they are a brilliant mistake, and deep down, we all know it…

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