The Decline of Publishing and the Rise of "Other Information Services"

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 8 2012 2:50 PM

The Decline of Publishing and the Rise of "Other Information Services"

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In honor of the latest round of buyout offers at the Washington Post, I offered a link on Twitter to a Fred chart illustrating the decline in employment in the BLS's "Publishing Industries, Except Internet" category. Some people asked what that looks like if you put the Internet in. There are basically two ways you can look at it. Establishments that are exclusively engaged in publishing or broadcasting on the Internet, along with web portals and search engines, are classified by the BLS as "Other Information Services."

So we can take a look at this comparison and get a fairly optimistic view:

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Here we see robust growth in OIS offsetting the decline of publishing. On the other hand, all that OIS growth has been from a low base. In terms of actual people this is what's happening:

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Here we see that the growth doesn't nearly make up for the decline. Now all that said, it's important to keep in mind what the BLS establishment survey shows. If the Houston Chronicle lays off a truck driver who used to deliver papers, that's a loss of jobs in "Publishing Industries." If Google hires a chef to cook for the workers in its D.C. office, that's a gain of jobs in "Other Information Services." But if Google fires its chef and decides to just order pizza instead, that's a loss of OIS jobs and an increase in food service employment. A news website inherently does not require as much labor to physically produce and distribute, but I think people may be more interested in the issue of whether there's more or less journalism happening than there used to be. As of a couple of years ago, at least, it seemed to be the case that the number of news writers and news analysts was on the rise, contrary to the conventional wisdom. As best I can tell, the decline in aggregate employment has been focused on editors and production workers rather than front-line writers.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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