Experts clash on progress of web ads’s news editor has rejected a report claiming it will take another 30 years for the web to make up just half of newspapers’ revenue – and instead posited the rapid decline of newspapers within a decade.

Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Fine issued a research note last week claiming online now represents an average 6 to 7 per cent of newspaper advertising income.

“[But] the proportion is still small overall,” Ms Fine said. “Even if we assume double-digit growth for online advertising revenues through 2012 and then 5 per cent [growth] thereafter … we do not see online representing more than 50 per cent of total newspaper advertising revenues until more than 30 years from now.”

But Shane Richmond on Monday joined critics who suggest a continued acceleration of print-to-net audience and ad migration would hasten the increasing prominence of digital on publishers’ income sheets.

“The internet has been in existence for 15 years; a lot has changed in that time,” Mr Richmond wrote. “And yet you think that in 30 years online will still be playing catch-up?

“Print sales are declining, print ad revenue is declining, online revenue is increasing. If everything stays the same, Ms Fine might be correct. But things aren’t going to stay the same. At some point, probably within the next 10 years, print won’t be slowly declining anymore, it will fall off a cliff.”

Meanwhile, ABC figures published on Monday showed overall US daily newspaper circulation fell 2.8 per cent in the six months to September, the fourth consecutive such report.

In the UK, online advertising expenditure is projected to overtake that in the national press by the end of the year, following year-on-year growth of 40 per cent, according to a study this month from the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Internet advertising now makes up more than a tenth of UK marketing spending, with growth attributable to more specific consumer profiling afforded by search and listings services.

The Telegraph is currently undergoing a fundamental repositioning for the digital age while Guardian Unlimited, which in March posted a profit of £1 million, now boasts an international monthly readership 11 times bigger than that of its printed counterpart.