Not More Metrics!

I have one more brief installment in this week’s series on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Census data for various sub-sectors of the media industry. Today I will point to a site that suggests how business people can use this authoritative government data, and also link to a one-stop shop that provides useful metrics for eight of the broad subgroups within the mediaspace.

(If you’ve been following the series skip to the next paragraph, if not and you are unfamiliar with the economic census you might wish to refer back to a primer blog entry I wrote some time ago.)

Pardon me if I’m belaboring an obvious point, but it is foolish to go into business without an expense and revenue projection. Projecting revenues is a separate art, but there are good sources for estimating cost data — the economic census series being the most authoritative of the free sources available.

The Census Bureau suggests a variety of ways that businesspeople (not to mention local government officials, activists, etcetera) can use these data to gauge the competition, create a more persuasive presentation for venture capitalists, etc. I’ll let you read that at your leisure.

My focus this week has been on culling the census offerings (which can be overwhelming in their detail) for facts on salaries, benefit costs and revenues-per-employee. I find such data particularly useful in creating realistic cash projections for startups. Here is a link to the page that culls some of this data into one place and does some of the math. (It would be nice if I knew how to embed the chart into the text while I explain it, but since I don’t, you may have to open two side-by-side windows on your screen or print out this blog entry if you need help making sense of the chart.)

The left column of the chart shows a breakdown of media subtypes:newspapers, etcetera, reading down.

Reading across, you will find total revenues for the group; next to that you will find operating expenses (from these two you can calculate average gross margins).

Continue reading across to see annual payroll as a percent of expenses; fringe benefit costs in addition to payroll expenses; and even the amounts and percentages of payroll devoted to contract or freelance help.

Over the weekend I hope to spend more time with these data and if I can manage it, I’d like to create a presentation that shows how to drill down into the data. (We’ll see how long it takes me to make good on that pledge!) Tomorrow, I’ll catch up on some of the newsy tidbits I’ve missed in this week’s metrics mania.

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