Publishing Industry (Except Software)

Significant Points

Nature of the Industry[About this section] [To Top]

Goods and services. The publishing industry produces a variety of publications, including magazines, books, newspapers, and directories. It also produces greeting cards, databases, calendars, and other published material, excluding software. Although mostly producing printed materials, the publishing industry is increasingly producing its material in other formats, such as CDs, online, or other electronic media. Establishments producing exclusively on the Internet, however, are not included in this sector.

Textbooks and technical, scientific, and professional books provide nearly half of the revenues of the book publishing industry. The other half consists of adult trade—the fiction and nonfiction books found in a typical bookstore—and juvenile, religious, paperback, mail-order, book club, and reference books.

There are two types of magazines—business-to-business, called "trade," and consumer magazines. Trade magazines serve a particular industry, profession, or service, while consumer magazines are written for general audiences.

Directory and mailing list publishers produce collections and compilations of data and information for residential and business customers. The most common directories are the telephone directories known as the white pages and yellow pages. These directories are designed to help calling parties locate residential telephone numbers and addresses and to allow people to search for businesses by category.

Although the content and formats may vary, most companies follow similar steps when publishing material. First, editorial departments must acquire the content, or material, to be published. Some publishers have a staff of writers, reporters, and editors who research and write articles, stories, and other text for the publication. Photographers and artists are also brought in to supplement the written material with photos and illustrations as needed. Other publishers purchase their written and graphic material from outside sources, mainly independent "freelance" writers, photographers, or artists. After the story or article is written, the manuscript is reviewed for accuracy and edited to ensure that it uses proper grammar and style. Editors and publishers develop captions and headlines and design pages and covers.

The sale of advertisements, including classified advertising, is the major source of revenue for magazines, newspapers, and directories, such as the telephone Yellow Pages. Advertising sales agents work with clients and advertising agencies to sell space in the publication. While most commercial advertisements are produced by advertising agencies, small advertisers may require the help of copywriters and graphic artists in the publisher's advertising department to create an advertisement.

When complete, all of the content—manuscript, photos and captions, illustrations, and any other artwork, including advertisements—is collected at one location and, with the help of desktop publishing software, the pages are laid out. Most newspapers and many magazines have art and design staffs that perform this "prepress" operation. Other publishers contract out their prepress work to commercial printers, along with the physical production of the publication.

Newspaper printing has become highly automated over the years, and the dominant printing process used to produce newspapers is lithography. The process involves putting the pages of the newspaper on film, and then "burning" the images from the film onto a thin aluminum plate, which is then installed on a press and chemically treated and inked. Presses then move rolls of paper along the rotating inked plates at very high rates of speed.

Getting the publication to readers is a function of the distribution department. Major book publishers often have large warehouse operations where books are stored and from which they are delivered as needed. Newspapers and magazines, however, distribute each issue only once. Immediately after they are printed, newspapers are folded, filled with inserts, bundled, and wrapped. The newspapers are then transported to distributors, who deliver the newspapers to newsstands and individual carriers. Another major function of newspaper distribution is making sure that newspapers are delivered on time at readers' doorsteps. Magazines are mailed to subscribers after printing or shipped to retail distributors. Many magazines and some newspapers contract out their distribution.

Publishers' publicity, marketing, and circulation departments are responsible for promoting a publication and increasing sales and circulation. Book publishers, in particular, promote new books by creating elaborate publicity campaigns involving, for example, book signings and public appearances by the author.

Industry organization. Newspapers employ the largest number of workers in the publishing industry. (See table 1.) With a staff of reporters and correspondents, newspapers report on events taking place locally and around the world. Despite the local nature of most newspaper publishing, the newspaper industry is dominated by several large corporations that own most of the newspapers in the country. It also is becoming common for companies to buy several newspapers in a single region so that they can be produced more efficiently. This is known as "clustering." Under this arrangement, multiple newspapers share the same printing plant, and advertising sales agents can sell advertising space as a bundle in all of the papers.

Table 1. Percent distribution of employment and establishments in publishing, except software, by detailed industry sector, 2008
Industry segment Employment Establishments
Total 100.0 100.0
Newspapers 52.6 35.4
Periodicals 22.8 35.5
Book publishing 12.9 15.7
Directory and mailing lists 7.3 7.5
Other publishers 4.4 5.9

Book publishing is dominated by a few very large companies. However, some mid-size and small publishers across the country are thriving, particularly those that specialize in certain subjects. Magazine, or periodical, publishers run the gamut from small one- or two-person shops to large media conglomerates that may publish dozens of magazines.

Recent developments. Much of the publishing industry is venturing online. Newspapers, in particular, and many magazines have extensive Web sites that are updated around the clock as news breaks. Some magazines are even publishing solely on the Internet. These Web sites may have their own writers and editors to supply content, but, for the most part, they reformat material developed by the print publication's regular staff. Books are also beginning to be reproduced electronically, so that they can be read on computers or on hand-held readers.

As lines between information mediums begin to blur, workers in this industry increasingly may be required to work in broadcasting and online. Many newspapers feel that this is the best way to provide information to readers who increasingly seek an interactive approach to news media. Photographers, for example, will have to learn to use video cameras, and print reporters may need to provide news stories for broadcast, host online discussions, or maintain a series of online journal entries known as a "blog" in order to engage readers over the Internet.

Computerization, especially digital technology, is having a significant impact on the publishing industry. Through e-mail, journalists can file stories remotely, giving them greater mobility and the ability to file stories much more quickly. Technology also enables journalists to include video and audio segments to complement written stories. Digital photography eliminates the need for film processing and allows for easy preparation of images for publishing. E-mail allows advertisers to send their ads directly to the publisher's production department for insertion. In the latest print technologies, computers use lasers to burn images and text onto the printing plate, eliminating the need to produce a film negative of each page.

Working Conditions[About this section] [To Top]

Hours. Working nights, weekends, and holidays is common, especially for those working on newspapers. The average nonsupervisory production worker in newspaper publishing worked 33.6 hours per week in 2008. In the other segments of the publishing industry, nonsupervisory production workers worked an average of 36.5 hours per week in periodical publishing, and 35.7 hours per week in book publishing. Although their hours are long, most advertising sales agents have the freedom to determine their own schedule. In contrast, telephone advertising and classified sales representatives more often have fixed schedules and often work part time. Part-time employment is significant in this industry, with 17 percent working part time.

Work environment. Meeting deadlines is one of the primary conditions of employment in this industry. Magazines and newspapers, in particular, are published on very tight schedules. This can often make for a very chaotic and stressful environment, and employees frequently may be required to work overtime.

Writers, editors, reporters, and correspondents have the most varied working conditions. Many work from home, particularly in book publishing, sending manuscripts back and forth using e-mail. For most writers and reporters, local and long distance travel is required to perform research and conduct interviews. News correspondents for large metropolitan newspapers or national news publications may be stationed in cities around the world, reporting on events in their territory. At headquarters, many in publishing work in comfortable, private offices, while others—particularly at newspapers—work in large, noisy, cubicle-filled rooms.

Many advertising sales agents also travel in order to meet with potential customers, although some sell over the telephone. Rejection by clients and the need to meet quotas can be stressful for these workers. Classified advertising clerks and customer service representatives increasingly work in call-center environments, manning telephones much of the day. Newspaper pressrooms are manufacturing plants that can be noisy and dangerous if safety procedures are not followed, but computerization of the machines has reduced injuries.

Employment[To Top]

The publishing industry provided 618,900 wage and salary jobs in 2008. The industry does not include independent, or "freelance," writers, artists, journalists, or photographers, whose jobs are included in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry, but who contribute a significant amount of content material to this industry.

Newspaper publishing companies employ the largest number of workers in this industry, because they write much of their own material and typically print, and sometimes distribute, their newspapers. While newspaper publishing is done throughout the country, magazine and book publishers are based mostly in large cities. The largest concentration of publishers is in New York City. Although 52 percent of the establishments in the publishing industry have less than 5 employees, 40 percent of jobs are in establishments with over 250 employees.

Occupations in the Industry[To Top]

Most occupations in the publishing industry fall into 1 of 4 categories: Writing and editing; production; sales, promotion, and marketing; and general administration (table 2). However, variations in the number and type of workers employed occur by type of publication. For example, most book publishing companies employ few writers because most of their content is acquired from freelance writers and photographers. In contrast, newspapers employ a large number of writers and reporters, who supply the content for the paper. Also, newspapers generally perform their own printing, whereas most books and magazines generally are printed by companies in the printing industry. Differences also exist depending on the size of the company and the variety of media published.

Writing and editing occupations. Everything that is published in this industry must first be written. Writers and authors and reporters and correspondents, who comprise the majority of publishing's professional and related occupations, write the articles, stories, and other text that end up in publications. Writers are assigned stories to write by editors. At newspapers and news magazines, reporters usually specialize in certain categories, or "beats," such as education, crime, sports, or world news. Writers and reporters gather information on their topic by performing Internet and library research and by interviewing people in person, by telephone, or by e-mail. They must then organize their material and write it down in a coherent manner that will interest and entertain readers. Increasingly, these workers also are required to produce interactive content such as short video segments or participate in online forums for a publication’s website. Copywriters, who write advertising copy, also are common in this industry.

Editors assign, review, rewrite, and correct the work of writers. They may also do original writing, such as producing editorials for newspapers or columns for magazines. In book publishing, they oversee the acquisition and selection of material, often working directly with the authors to achieve the final product. Most publishing companies employ several types of editors. The executive editor generally has the final say about what will be published and how it will be covered and presented. Managing editors are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the editorial department. They make sure that materials conform to guidelines, and that deadlines are met. Associate and assistant editors give assignments to writers and reporters, oversee projects, and do much of the editing of text. Copy editors review manuscripts or reporters' copy for accuracy, content, grammar, and style. Editors also are performing more layout design and prepress functions as computerization moves these jobs from the production department to the editorial department.

Other occupations that work closely with the editorial department are art and design workers and photographers, whose work often complements the written material. They illustrate children's books, photograph news events, design book jackets and magazine covers, and lay out every page of publications. The art director determines the overall look of the publication, overseeing placement of text, artwork, and photographs and any advertising on the page, and selecting type sizes and styles, or fonts.

Production and related occupations. Industrial production managers, with the help of production and planning clerks, oversee the production of the publication. They set up production schedules and see that deadlines are met. They also try to keep printing costs low while maintaining product integrity. The production manager also determines how much a particular product will cost to produce, for example, a 300-page textbook or an advertising insert in a magazine. In newspaper publishing, the production manager oversees and controls the entire production operation.

Other production occupations found mainly in newspaper printing plants are prepress technicians and printing machine operators. Prepress technicians scan images and do page layout and camera work. They then produce the printing plates containing the text and images that will be printed. Printing machine operators set up and run the printing presses to produce the printed materials. Driver/sales workers and delivery truck drivers deliver the newspapers to newsstands and residential customers.

Sales, promotion, and marketing occupations. Magazines, newspapers, and directories, in particular, employ many advertising sales agents, who generate most of the revenue for these publications. Using demographic data produced by the market research department, they make presentations to potential clients promoting the use of their publication for advertising purposes. Increasingly, advertising agents sell integrated packages that include advertisements to be placed online or with a broadcast subsidiary, along with additional promotional tie-ins. This job can require substantial travel for some, while others may sell advertising over the telephone. Classified advertising sales are handled by telemarketers or customer service representatives, depending on the origin of the call. Advertising and promotions managers, called circulation directors at some magazines and newspapers, study trends and devise promotion campaigns to generate new readers. They also work with the driver/sales workers to ensure that the publications are delivered on time.

Book publishers primarily generate sales through the use of publicity campaigns and a sales force. Public relations specialists promote books by setting up media interviews with authors and book signings, and by placing advertisements in relevant publications. Sales representatives go to places, such as libraries, schools, and bookstores, to promote the sale of their books. They also are responsible for finding additional sources of profit for a title, including book clubs, paperback editions, audio, e-books, and foreign rights for publishing the title in other languages.

General administration occupations. The publishing industry, as with most industries, has a variety of general managers, accountants, and administrative support staff who help to run the company. There are also computer specialists to keep the computer systems running and to implement new technologies. Others work as Internet site developers, who work with the design, editorial, and production departments in order to implement content changes and redesigns of Web sites operated by the publication.

Other occupations that are unique or important to operations include publishers, or chief executives, of a company. Publishers are in charge of the business side of the organization and are responsible for implementing company policies. Subsidiary rights and permissions personnel are business operations specialists, who negotiate the copyrights for material and also license to others the right to reproduce or reprint copyrighted material. Stock clerks and order fillers and customer service representatives keep track of books in publisher's warehouses and respond to customer inquiries. As publications, particularly books, are published in more than one format, workers are needed to develop the new formats. Audio books, for example, require sound engineering technicians to transfer the books to tape or CD.

Table 2. Employment of wage and salary workers in publishing, except software, 2008 and projected change, 2008-2018. (Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2008 Percent Change,
Number Percent
All Occupations 618.9 100.0 -19.3
Management, business, and financial occupations 62.5 10.1 -16.1
  General and operations managers 11.6 1.9 -25.5
  Marketing managers 3.1 0.5 -14.2
  Sales managers 4.8 0.8 -7.7
Professional and related occupations 194.7 31.5 -15.0
  Graphic designers 28.0 4.5 -2.6
  Reporters and correspondents 36.5 5.9 -21.6
  Editors 65.4 10.6 -16.9
Sales and related occupations 94.5 15.3 -19.6
  First-line supervisors/managers of non-retail sales workers 7.1 1.2 -19.5
  Advertising sales agents 53.2 8.6 -18.4
  Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing 12.0 1.9 -16.1
Office and administrative support occupations 147.1 23.8 -22.6
  Customer service representatives 17.5 2.8 -8.4
  Secretaries and administrative assistants 19.0 3.1 -19.8
  Office clerks, general 18.5 3.0 -17.3
Production occupations 60.9 9.8 -22.0
  Printers 35.2 5.7 -23.3
Transportation and material moving occupations 50.5 8.2 -26.6
NOTE: Columns may not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment.

Training and Advancement[About this section] [To Top]

The ability to communicate well is one of the most important skills needed to enter the publishing industry. Computer literacy also is becoming a requirement for almost everyone seeking work in this industry, and the ability to meet tight deadlines is a must for most workers.

Most nonentry-level jobs in this industry require experience, especially if one wants to work for a top newspaper, magazine, or book publishing company. Experience can be obtained by working for a school newspaper or by performing an internship with a publishing company. However, most people start by working for small publishing companies or newspapers in smaller cities and towns and work their way up to better paying jobs with larger newspapers or publishers. Others break into the field by doing freelance work.

Writing and editing occupations. Writers, reporters, and editors generally need a bachelor's degree. Most people in these occupations majored in English, communication, or journalism. Some publishers, however, prefer graduates with liberal arts degrees or specific subject knowledge if the person will be writing about a complex topic or doing technical writing. For the most part, writers and editors need to be able to express ideas clearly and logically and to write under pressure. Familiarity with desktop publishing software and basic multimedia programs is helpful.

Writers and editors often start as assistants, performing fact-checking, doing research, or copy editing along with clerical tasks. News reporters often start by covering local community events or criminal cases and advance to reporting regional or national news. Writers and reporters can advance to editorial positions, but some choose to continue writing and advance by becoming nationally known experts in their field.

Sales, promotion, and marketing occupations. A college degree is preferred for most advertising, sales, and marketing positions that require meetings with clients. Courses in marketing, communication, business, and advertising are helpful. For those who sell over the telephone, a high school degree may be sufficient. However, more important for success are excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Those in advertising and sales must be able to get along with others, as well as be self-motivated, well-organized, persistent, independent, and able to handle rejection. Enthusiasm and a sense of humor also help. These workers advance by taking on bigger, more important clients or by going into management.

Production occupations. Most prepress technicians and printing machine operators learn through a combination of formal education and by working alongside experienced workers. Although a high school education is sufficient for entry-level printing machine operator jobs, taking classes in printing techniques or getting an associate degree at a postsecondary institution will enhance one's credentials and make it easier to find a job. This is particularly true for those interested in prepress work. Computer skills and familiarity with publishing software packages are important because prepress work and printing are increasingly computerized. Training on new machines will be needed throughout one's career. Advancement usually comes by working on more complex printing jobs or by becoming a supervisor.

Outlook[About this section] [To Top]

Employment in publishing is expected to decline as newspapers continue to lose subscribers and jobs, but book, periodical and directory publishing remain stable. Keen competition can be expected for most job openings for writers, editors, and reporters, particularly with nationally known publications.

Employment change. Over the period 2008-18, wage and salary employment in publishing, except software, is projected to decline 19 percent, compared with 11 percent growth for all industries combined. Books, newspapers, and magazines will continue to be needed to keep people informed and entertained, whether published in print or through electronic media. However, efficiencies in production, declining newspaper revenues, and a trend towards using more freelance workers will cause overall employment to decline.

Newspaper subscriptions and advertising revenues have been declining for many years as more people turn to television and the Internet for their news. Also, mergers in the industry that make newspapers more efficient allow reporters and advertising sales agents to write stories or sell advertising for several newspapers, or even several media outlets, at once.

Efficiencies will be particularly apparent in the printing plants. As a result, employment of prepress technicians and printing machine operators is expected to decline because fewer will be needed to operate the new computerized equipment. Newspapers will increasingly use temporary workers, instead of full-time employees, to fill open positions in distribution. All of these factors will cause newspaper publishers to shed jobs as they try to reduce costs to make up for declining revenues.

Over the next decade, employment in periodical and book publishing, along with miscellaneous publishing, also will decline. Although demand for the specialized information traditionally provided by these publishers will increase, much of this demand will be met by information provided solely over the Internet. Many magazines and other publications will continue to be published in both print and electronic formats, but some will switch to publishing only on the Internet, while many new publications that are created will choose to publish only on the Internet as well.

Job prospects. The need for workers in the publishing industry usually varies with the economy. When the economy is depressed, advertising declines, and publishers look to cut costs and personnel. In addition, State and local governments cut back on spending on books for libraries and, to a lesser extent, for schools.

The best job opportunities in the future will be for those who have good computer skills and are trained to work in multiple mediums. Most newspapers and magazines, in particular, now have Web sites that must be regularly updated as the content on the sites continues to expand. Some publishers will require additional writers, reporters, and editors to update content on a Web site, but most of the work will be done by the writers and reporters themselves. The sites also need webmasters, designers, and other computer experts to maintain the sites. In addition, production of e-books is likely to expand and grow in popularity over the next decade, requiring workers skilled in incorporating graphics and other digital inputs. For entry-level employees, an advanced degree in journalism where one can learn a wide range of skills may increase one’s competitiveness in the job market.

Job opportunities will vary among occupations. However, one can expect keen competition for most writing, editing, and reporting jobs in this industry, which attract a large number of applicants, especially at nationally known publications and large metropolitan newspapers. Writers with specialized knowledge, such as finance or the arts, and those who can write on subjects appealing to minority and ethnic readers, will have better job prospects due to the growth of publications appealing to those audiences.

Job openings for advertising sales agents will arise as turnover in this occupation is generally high, and new workers are always needed for these jobs. Advertising sales agents who have a bachelor's degree and direct sales experience will have the best opportunities.

Earnings [About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

Industry earnings. Average weekly earnings for workers in the publishing industry varied by type of publication. In 2008, average weekly earnings were $829 in periodical publishing, $746 in book publishing, and $617 in newspaper publishing, compared with $608 for all private sector industries. Writers, editors, and reporters working on major metropolitan newspapers, or those with technical expertise writing for specialized magazines, usually have the highest salaries. Advertising sales representatives usually earn a base salary plus an amount based on sales. Wages for selected occupations in publishing appear in table 3.

Table 3. Median hourly wages of the largest occupations in publishing, except software, May 2008
Occupation Publishing, except software All industries
General and operations managers $52.34 $44.02
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products 25.39 24.68
Editors 23.69 24.04
Advertising sales agents 18.32 20.90
Graphic designers 17.75 20.39
Printing machine operators 17.70 15.46
Reporters and correspondents 16.07 16.75
Customer service representatives 14.27 14.36
Office clerks, general 12.19 12.17
Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service 12.12 12.07

Benefits and union membership. Writers, reporters, and editors who cover foreign affairs or other international news may enjoy extensive paid travel or reassignment to other cities in order to better acquaint themselves with their subject matter. Photographers also find it necessary to travel in order to capture their assignments.

Those in publishing who choose to freelance are not provided with medical insurance or retirement benefits by those who buy their work. 10 percent of workers in the publishing industry are union members or are covered by a contract as compared to 14 percent for all industries combined. The Newspaper Guild-CWA is the major union representing most nonsupervisory employees in the newspaper industry.

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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