April 4, 2017 Last Updated 9:31 am

BLS data track the loss of newspaper jobs, growth of digital following great recession

Internet publishing jobs, while growing before 2007, really took off after the great recession, lured not only by the prospect of better growth prospects, but by better pay, as well

The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly publishes its data on employment in the media business, and every time it appears media folk shake their head after seeing what has happened to newspaper employment.

“From January 2001 to September 2016, the newspaper publishers industry lost over half of its employment, from 412,000 to 174,000,” the BLS states. “In contrast, employment in the Internet publishing and web search portals industry increased from 67,000 jobs in January 2007 to 206,000 jobs in September 2016.”

For those of us who have worked in the newspaper business, the data is not new, or at all surprising. Just today the Richmond Times-Dispatch announced it was cutting 33 positions, and Gannett has been cutting so many newsroom jobs that eventually there will be one reporter in McLean, Virginia responsible for all content across the chain (or is that only the dream of management?).

While jobs were being lost throughout 2000-2010, it was the great recession that really changed things. As you can see above, not only did newspapers lose many positions, but things really picked up for digital publishing. It has been the migration of print advertising to digital properties, specifically the big guys – Facebook and Google – that has effected the newspaper industry.

But the industry responded all wrong. In the past, newspaper campaigned hard for their share of the business. Today, with few ad professionals running newspaper companies, the emphasis has shifted towards reader revenue. The shift has failed, overall. Reader revenue has increased, but at a pace far lower than the loss of print ad revenue – and digital has not made up the difference because newspaper digital advertising is basically just the same as print, buttons and banners rather than per-inch display.

While I bet newspaper managers are willing to lament the loss of jobs, I wonder how many are willing to look at one of the other charts, the one regarding pay.

I find this one interesting because it could be interpreted many ways. Newspapers, some might argue, have a lot of positions associated with the production of the newspaper that are outside the newsroom or ad sales departments. These positions, one could argue, would be lower paying.

But, as someone who has been both in management and a shop steward (and once, both at the same time), I would see this as the loss of union jobs as newspaper companies break the backs of collective bargaining.

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