Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's official: fewer newspaper publishers

The U.S. Census Bureau, best known for counting heads in this country, also produces an economic census every five years -- an accounting of businesses and their activities. Typically, two years after the data are collected, the findings are published.

Preliminary numbers from the 2007 economic census are starting to emerge, and I took note of this: fewer newspaper publishers existed then than in the 2002 census, and they employed fewer workers.

The Census Bureau says the U.S. had 8,375 newspaper publishers in 2007, compared with 8,603 in 2002, a drop of 2.65 percent. Workers numbered 356,943 in 2007 vs. 401,170 in 2002, a slide of 11 percent.

Despite the drop in workers, annual payroll rose: to $13.98 billion in 2007 from $13.73 billion in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.

Receipts (revenue) rose too: to $47.01 billion in 2007 from $46.18 billion in 2002.

The data were released Oct. 9 and will be updated as they are refined, according to the agency.

Not yet available from the 2007 economic census are data for Internet publishers.

You see, newspapers fall into the so-called industrial code known as "information." And while the definition reads that "these establishments may publish newspapers in print or electronic form," their NAICS code is titled "publishing industries (except Internet)."

Meanwhile, the Internet is relegated to a separate information subgroup titled "Internet publishing and broadcasting," which includes "establishments that publish and/or broadcast content exclusively for the Internet."

Confused yet?

The 2002 economic census counted 2,057 Internet businesses that year, with payroll of $2.35 billion and 40,021 employees. Revenue totaled $6.36 billion.

But there also were 10,390 Internet establishments categorized as "nonemployers," or businesses with no paid employees. (Blogs perhaps?) They reported revenue of a mere $177 million.

It will be interesting to see what kind of growth the 2007 census shows in the Internet subgroup, vs. the decline seen in newspaper publishers.

The latter isn't a surprise, of course, as newspapers have been merging, closing or shifting to online-only publication for several years now.

Can you imagine what the 2012 economic census will show?

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