Creative Destruction in the News

by on August 7, 2013 at 10:20 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

From Michael Mandel who notes:

According to data from The Conference Board, the number of want ads for news analysts, reporter, and correspondents more than doubled from early 2010 to today! Moreover, it is noteworthy that the BLS annual series show a 25% gain in the number of working journalists from 2009 to 2012 (not shown on chart)

Now, let’s be realistic. I’m not saying that the true demand for journalists doubled between the beginning of 2009 and today, although given that no one was hiring in the depths of the recession, that statement might be literally true. In fact, the help-wanted series is an example of naturally-generated ‘big data’, meaning that it can be affected by changes in business practices, such as the way jobs are posted. The nature of journalism jobs may also be changing.

However, there seems little doubt that technology and innovation in journalism is creating new jobs in different industries even as the old companies and old industries are being undermined. I’m pretty sure that jobs at Politico are not being reported in the same industry as jobs at the Washington Post, even if Politico hires a WaPo reporter to cover more or less the same things.

As innovation accelerates, we’ll see more examples of this kind of divergence: Declining old industries, growing new jobs.

1 Burninate August 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

“There are significant changes underway in the way job listings are used”, combined with SV housing prices, form the leading hypothesis to explain the deficit of programmer employees simultaneously with a drought of programming work and a rapid growth in time & productivity spent on filtering applicants.

2 Ray Lopez August 7, 2013 at 10:51 am

There is always increased demand for reporters and journalists who will work for peanuts or, better yet, for free. it’s crowdsourcing. One reason I read this blog: you pick the mind of a brilliant economist, or three, and on occasion send them an email, which sometimes gets answered, all for free. Demand is high for such services. The New Zero to quote a book from a few years ago.

3 prior_approval August 7, 2013 at 11:08 am

‘growing new jobs’

HuffingtonPost begs to differ – ‘Well, this is awkward: Having somehow heard that Arianna Huffington and her partners in the Huffington Post recently came into $315 million, some members of the unpaid blogging horde that fills the website with content are asking for their share. Yesterday, a Facebook group titled Hey Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime? was launched to rally the disgruntled bloggers together. “AOL gave you $315 million,” reads the group’s description. “We’re asking you to give a little back to the unpaid writers who built the Huffington Post.” A post notes that “this $315 million buyout by AOL, along with her $4 million annual salary, was built on the backs of hard-working writers who never saw a dime for their labor. We call on Ms. Huffington to live up to the ideals she so earnestly professes and share her profits with the people responsible for the Huffington Post’s success.” Hey, wait a minute. Yeah, isn’t this the woman who just wrote a book that fretted America is going to become a Third World country? Where was that sentiment when she made millions off of free labor?

Of course, the reality is not so simple. Arianna was never dishonest about what she was offering in exchange for blog content: Writers were given a platform for their work — one that grew substantially in a short time, and will be even larger now. And she does pay employees, nearly 200 in fact, many of whom edit and post those same “free” columns. “No one has ever tried to fool anybody,” founding editor Roy Sekoff told Bloomberg Business Week this morning. “When we started we had 500 contributors. Now we’ve had close to 15,000 people blogging at least once. They came to us and said, ‘Please, can my stuff be on your site?'”‘

The ads for vanity publishers with no connection to the actual publishing industry seem to be constant in volume – nonetheless, such offers need to be discounted when talking about professional writing.

4 Ted Craig August 7, 2013 at 11:32 am

Here’s the latest (ugly) newsroom census:

So where are these jobs? And how do the numbers compare to pre-recession numbers?

5 Arjun August 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

I think its mistaken to be optimistic about the nature of technological innovation with regards to jobs outside of fields that require creative labor (i.e. journalists). The newspapers of tomorrow will demand more or less the same skillsets as the newspapers of yesterday, even if the medium of getting the news to people radically changes (i.e. paper to digital).

But this is a bit of a “duh” point, don’t you think? The real concern with regards to technology and jobs is in low-skilled labor, where jobs displaced by technology not only make particular jobs obsolete, but the skillsets themselves obsolete. Hell even MIT thinks this ( The solution needs to be the implementation of infrastructure that can transfer the skills to newly obsolete populations, so that they can partake in the new jobs that innovation creates. Its either that, or go the Nixon/Reagan route of criminalizing enitre populations so that the newly unemployed don’t cause too much troube.

6 Z August 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm

The left side of the bell curve will always be with us. Technology is now making it hard to find a role for that half of the population. Historically, a large population of idle dimwits has been a recipe for disaster.

7 anon August 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

a large population of idle dimwits has been a recipe for disaster

E.g., Congress.

8 Z August 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm

You’re not far off. State government employment has soaked up a lot of the left side work force. Spend any time around a municipal bureaucracy and you quickly see what I mean. Most of those people standing around in office would have been on the shop floor in another age. They are simply incapable of doing anything but follow simple instructions.

9 Yancey Ward August 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm

This might well be explained by the contraction of printer engineers/repairmen, typesetters, truck drivers, newspaper deliverers, and other newspaper production employees. The digital age frees up funds for actual journalists.

10 FC August 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Replacing blue collar union members with soft-handed humanities majors who work for little or nothing? Sounds to me like a war on the middle class.

11 Marie August 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

I think the freed up resources tended to go to the ad department.

12 Steve Sailer August 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

What percentage of these new jobs are for content farming and the like, paying, say, $5 or $10 per blog post?

13 LK August 8, 2013 at 2:08 am

According to my friend currently at Columbia Journalism something like forty percent of the (what I believe are the most elite) young journalists will be working in content farms or other “mass produce” journalism: Gawker, Buzzfeed, Outbrain et. al. They’re even learning programming to the extent that they can automate parts of their jobs and keep their output high.

Another twenty percent will be abroad which is usually a win-win because international journalists have high status ( = poosy for guys and nebulous spiritual journeys for ladies!) and are paid less than stateside journalists even net of flights.

Glenn Greenwald reporting on US privacy issues in England is just the beginning.

Twenty percent will get the jobs they want and the final twenty percent are unemployed/working at the local paper.

14 Geoff Olynyk August 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Shockingly, “job” or “job posting” is not a good measure of the true state of employment in an industry.

$75,000/year with full benefits is a “job”. So is $8.00/hr part time (or $15/article piecework) with no benefits.

Economist Frances Woolley recently tweeted some statistics about Ph.D. thesis lengths, but used the metric of “pages”. The density of information (or just words) per page can vary by more than a factor of 2 between double-spaced 12-pt LaTeX or Word, and single-spaced 10-pt. Same problem.

15 Jay August 7, 2013 at 11:29 pm

What about the HuffPo slaves that post and get paid $0? I know that is below the minimum wage – but is that still a job?

16 Peter H August 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Confounding variable: the price of want ads has changed.

Want ads (and other classified ads) are much cheaper to post now than they were in the past. So we should expect to see more of them, even if the number of positions hasn’t changed. Instead of just 1 ad in the local daily, you could run 5 ads on various sites for the same job, and get a better pool of applicants at lower search cost.

Second, want ads and other ads are what used to primarily pay for periodical journalists salaries. So we should expect as want ads become cheaper that the total remuneration to periodical journalists would decline.

17 Edward Burke August 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

Two questions I did not see posed or answered in Mandel’s piece: 1) just who is placing all of these want-ads for news analysts, reporters, and correspondents? (I somehow gained the [mis-?]impression that most of these ads are not coming from media companies, whether for remaining print operations or for growing online ventures: so who? various corporate PR departments, Federal/state/municipal governments, ad agencies, radio and television, other entirely new media ventures [print or internet]?) and 2) where do these advertisements appear? (I assume most appear only online.)

18 TallDave August 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

The amount of information received probably doesn’t correlate well to the number of workers. For one thing, the Internet makes news WORMier.

19 Jacob A. Geller August 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Might this have something to do with a rightward shift in the Beveridge curve..?

(Not everything, just something)

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