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Size of Media Workforce Sinks to 15-Year Low

February 20, 2008
Related Topics: Future Workplace, Latest News
Get out of media. Get into marketing.

U.S. media employment in December fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing services—agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers—broke a record in November (769,000). Marketing consulting powered that growth.

Here’s the reason behind the disparity: Marketers still invest in marketing, but they have options far beyond paid media—digital initiatives, direct marketing, promotions and events, just to name a few. That creates more opportunities for consultants to help define strategies.

Agencies also have adapted, expanding beyond simply creating and placing ads. Indeed, Ad Age DataCenter research has shown that, for the first time, U.S. marketing communications agencies collectively in 2005 generated less than half of their revenue from traditional media and media planning/buying.

Want more evidence of tumult in media? Consider performance of stocks in the Ad Age/Bloomberg AdMarket 50 since May 2002, when U.S. measured media spending began to recover from the last recession. Since then, four of five agency stocks and 15 of 26 marketer stocks have risen. But a majority (11 of 19) of media stocks have fallen.

Among all the ad-related job sectors, the hot spot is marketing consulting. Employment in that field in December reached a record 148,500, accounting for the lion’s share of job gains over the past year in advertising and marketing services.

Marketing consultancies over the past year added 14,500 jobs (up 10.8 percent), nearly matching staff cuts at newspapers (down 16,900, or 4.7 percent).

The job figures come from an Ad Age DataCenter analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. For purposes of the jobs tally, Ad Age defines media as newspapers, broadcast and cable TV, radio, magazines and Internet media companies.

Ad/marketing services consists of marketing consultancies, ad and PR agencies, media agencies/media rep firms and graphic design firms, all of which saw gains in 2007; and firms involved in market research, ad material distribution and direct-mail advertising, which cut jobs last year.

With the notable exception of marketing consultancies, employment in the advertising/marketing services sectors remains below historic highs (hit mostly in the 2000 bubble). Ad agency staffing, for example, is 10 percent below its 2000 peak; employment at PR agencies is 11.5 percent off its 2000 high.

Still, the ad/marketing services sectors have rebounded from the ad industry’s January 2004 post-recession employment nadir. Advertising/marketing services has added 106,000 jobs since then; marketing consulting accounted for nearly half (48,200) of those gains.

It’s a different picture in media. Since media employment peaked in dot-com-infused 2000, media companies have eliminated one in six jobs (167,600).

Newspapers, TV and radio all cut staffing last year. The only media sectors to add jobs: magazines (up a meager 400 jobs) and Internet media companies (up 9,200).

Internet media companies, a sector that includes search engines and Web portals, is a bright spot, with a 13.4 percent jump in jobs last year. Still, Internet media employment remains 31 percent below its peak during the dot-com bubble.

The big problem is newspapers, which account for half (82,800) of media jobs lost since 2000. One in four newspaper jobs have disappeared since newspaper employment peaked in 1990.

Newspapers, saddled with heavy costs of printing and distribution, last year accounted for 38 percent of U.S. media jobs, down from 50 percent in 1990.

Filed by Bradley Johnson of Ad Age, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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