The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a snapshot of publishing industry jobs. According to the BLS’s graph, the industry has taken a beating over the past twenty-five years. The sectors hit the hardest were books, newspapers, and periodicals.
Book publishing, an industry that saw numerous consolidations in recent years, lost a considerable amount of jobs. In 1990, there were 85,900 jobs in book publishing. By 2016, only 61,500 jobs remained. Periodical publishing jobs also suffered because of poor sales. The industry boasted 146,800 jobs in 1990, but by 2016, that number had dipped to 93,600.
Newspapers, which have been losing reams of readers since the advent of the Internet, showed the most painful losses of all. In 1990, 455,000 people worked in newspaper-related jobs. By 2016, only 183,200 of those jobs were still standing.
All in all, the publishing industry lost more than 25 percent of its workforce in a span of twenty-five years.
Where Did the Publishing Jobs Go?
The extreme losses are attributable to several factors. For one, the efficiency of modern publishing, driven by computer capabilities, has drastically reduced the number of workers needed to produce a book, periodical or newspaper.
Technology has further affected the publishing business through the rise of the Internet, which has tremendously impacted the way in which people access content. In the past few years in particular, with the rise of mobile tablets and smartphones, more and more people obtain their news, magazines, and even books from a website or app. Newspapers find it difficult to monetize content published on smartphones, and giant technology firms such as Facebook and Google have been taking the lion’s share of advertisers’ budgets. The shift in content consumption has undoubtedly opened doors to new jobs in other industries, but that does not put a damper on the flagrant loss of jobs it has spurred.
Ebooks have further diminished the publishing business. Independently published ebooks in particular have the effect of eliminating publishing jobs. Authors write, edit, publish, and upload to a platform on their own, obviating the need for any middleman. Selling books directly on Amazon further squelches publishing job positions.
Bright Spots in Publishing
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s report contained a few bright spots; jobs related to the digital revolution have increased. Not surprisingly, the number of Internet publishing and broadcasting jobs have risen precipitously since 1990, when there were only 28,800 jobs in the industry. By March 2016, that number had risen to 197,800.
Another exception to the dismal publishing jobs’ picture was the motion picture and video production industry. In 1990, there were only 91,500 jobs, but by March 2016, 239,300 people were employed in the profession.
Our migration to digital media has turned the tables in the publishing industry. Jobs still exist, but traditional strongholds of the industry have weakened while other types of jobs have risen to the fore.