Digital Publishing Headcount Passes Newspapers

For the first time in history, the number of employees involved in digital publishing has surpassed the number of employees in the legacy newspaper business, according to the latest figures from the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This milestone reflects both the rapid growth of online media and the steep, steady decline in the print newspaper industry.

In February,  the total number of employees in U.S. digital publishing reached 197,200, per the BLS, up from 193,500 the month before and 178,900 a year previously. Total employment in the newspaper industry dipped to 184,800, down from 196,100 during the same month a year previously.

It’s worth noting these figures, first reported by Bloomberg, aren’t precise.

The digital publishing figures actually refer to total employment across “Internet publishing and broadcasting and Web search portals” (including Google), while the newspaper industry’s figures include employees involved in digital publishing, and therefore probably overlap with the former to some degree.

Still, the numbers are stark reminders of the general trends; they are even more impressive when viewed against long-term comparisons. Newspaper employment has fallen by half over the last decade, from 365,200 in February 2006, and employment in digital publishing has risen almost three-fold from just 70,500 over the same period.

However, by comparing employment figures from the BLS with revenue figures from the Census Bureau, it becomes clear that newspaper publishing has actually grown more lucrative, at least on a simple per capita basis.

According to the Census Bureau, total newspaper revenues came to $27 billion in 2015, for an average of around $145,000 per employee at year’s end. That compares to $42.3 billion in 2006, yielding an average of $120,000 at year’s end.  

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