By The Numbers

For months I’ve been toting around printouts of the most recent Economic Census data for the Information industry, a category that includes various forms of old and new media. During a long journey I finally got around to making sense of the media sub-sector entitled “Internet Publishing and Broadcasting.”

I explained a bit about the Economic Census in a prior post, and here I would simply add a reminder that these data, though published recently, reflect facts gathered in 2002. With that caveat, let me lay out a few observations. (If you want to crunch the numbers yourself they are easy to obtain.)

The Census Bureau’s economic bureau counted 2,060 establishments under the heading of Internet Publishing and Broadcasting — that is companies, or divisions within larger companies, that produced content for delivery over the Internet. Internet sites of newspapers count under the total. Ditto for the Internet sites of periodicals (i.e. magazines). Firms started specifically to disseminate Internet content are obviously included among those 2,060 establishments. (NOTE: These figures EXCLUDE web portals and ISPs; Census lumps them under a separate category that I will summarize tomorrow when I will be stuck on another long trip.)

The most accessible and comprehensible data in the report were total receipts, total payroll and total headcount. The 2,060 establishments classified as “Internet publishers and broadcasters” collected $6.43 billion in receipts according to the Census Bureau. They reported payrolls of $2.3 billion, or roughly 36 percent of receipts. With a total headcount of 39,479 persons at survey time, this worked out to per capita payroll cost of $58,279. This included bonuses, vacation pay and other pre-tax wages but excluded health care benefits (at least that’s what my reading of the fine print suggests; If I’m wrong I’ll set the record straight.)

The report broke down the revenue totals into 36 different product lines which might be worth perusing if you want to compare, for instance, how newspaper websites stacked up next to periodical websites, or any of the 36 specific product areas. But the data are frankly too confusing to make sense of quickly, and should best be studied by people with interests in those specific areas. If you scan the tables you’ll see revenue breakdown for each of the 36 product areas — advertising sales by newspaper websites, for instance are a different category than ad sales by periodical web sites — which are further broken down into genres, such as general interest, business trade, etcetera.

But I find per capita payroll and revenue per employee metrics the most useful in building business models — and alas they are only available for the broad group of 2,060 establishments, and are not broken down for the 36 product area groups.

Tomorrow I’ll see what’s in the ISP and Portal segment.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media