Newspaper News

Yesterday I began to analyze the most recent Economic Census data regarding the media industry, which is broken into 13 sub-sectors. Today I will continue that exercise with a quick look at metrics for the newspaper industry, which saw meager revenue growth, a slight decline in headcount and somewhat improved productivity, as measured by revenues per employee.

(Note: Readers of yesterday’s blog recall that I had promised to review the ISP & web portals category today, but I found that too confusing, so I will defer that until I can do some additional reporting. It’s easier for me to offer some Census highlights on newspapers because I’ve worked in the industry since 1992.)

I’ll assume you’ve already scanned my Economic Census primer, and are ready to visit Table 2 of the Newspaper Publishers report. It compares how newspapers performed in a variety of metrics between 1997 and 2002.

From Table 2 you can see that the number of newspapers declined slightly (from 8,758 to 8,617) over the five-year period; receipts increased an anemic 9.3 percent (from $41.6 billion to $45.9 billion); the industry lost about 2,600 jobs which put 2002 headcount at 406,692; and revenues-per-employee, a rough proxy for productivity, increased 11 percent (from $103,000 to $114,520).

I have to be brief today and this analysis is frankly a training exercise so I will just point out one other thing you can easily learn from Table 4 of the report, which shows the concentration of revenues among the largest firms. What it shows is that the four largest firms (i.e. newspaper chains) had 257 locations (see column three, “Establishments” which in this instance would be individual newspapers), and that these four firms, with their 257 outlets, garnered 32 percent of all the revenues in this category. Using this same analysis, the top 50 firms, with 1,385 outlets, had 77.3 percent of the cash.

So if you run a small newspaper and wonder where all the money is, at least now you know. I’ll return to the Census tables when time and knowledge permit.

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