Publishing, Except Software

Significant Points
  • Strong communication skills and the ability to meet tight deadlines are crucial for many jobs in this industry.
  • Mergers and computerization will make firms more productive and limit employment growth.
  • Writers and editors face keen competition for jobs, as this industry attracts a large number of applicants, especially at nationally known publications.
  • Technological advances will result in a decline in employment of some workers, such as prepress technicians.

Nature of the Industry [About this section] Back to TopBack 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 audio or video discs (e.g., CD-ROM), or other electronic media.

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. When this is done, the publishers obtain the legal right to publish the material from the content providers prior to publication. After the story or article is written, the manuscript is reviewed to check that the information it contains is accurate and then it is edited to ensure that it uses correct grammar and a writing style that is clear and interesting. Editors and publishers develop captions and headlines and design the pages and the 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.

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 book signings and public appearances by the author.

Getting the publication to the 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.

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 reporting, 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, 2006
Industry segment Employment Establishments




100.0 100.0




55.0 36.5


21.8 34.8

Book publishing

12.3 15.1

Directory and mailing lists

6.8 7.9

Other publishers

4.1 5.8

Newspaper publishers usually own the printing plants that print their newspapers. Over the years, this type of printing operation has become highly automated and the skills needed to produce a newspaper are changing with the technology. 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. In the plant, rolls of paper are brought in from the warehouse, the plates are treated with chemicals, ink is mixed, and presses move the paper along the rotating inked plates at very high rates of speed.

Book publishing is also dominated by a few very large companies, primarily based in New York City. However, some mid-size and small publishers across the country are thriving, particularly those that specialize in certain subjects. 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—that which is typically found in a bookstore—and juvenile, religious, paperback, mail-order, book club, and reference books.

Magazine, or periodical, publishers run the gamut from small one- or two-person shops to large media conglomerates that may publish dozens of magazines. 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.

Recent developments. Much of the publishing industry is venturing online. Newspapers, in particular, and some magazines have extensive Web sites that are updated around the clock as news breaks. 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.”

Computerization, especially digital technology, is having a significant impact on the publishing industry. Digital photography eliminates the need for film processing and allows for easy manipulation of images. Electronic mail also 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] Back to TopBack 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 2006, compared with 33.9 hours per week across all industries. Nonsupervisory production workers worked an average of 34.7 hours per week in periodical publishing, and 36.2 hours per week in book publishing. Part-time employment is significant in this industry, with 19 percent working part time. Newspaper distributors and drivers usually work five to six hours a day, often in the middle of the night. Although the hours are long and often irregular, most advertising sales agents have the freedom to determine their own schedule. Some telephone advertising and classified sales representatives also work 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 a very tight schedule and workers must be prepared to meet these deadlines. 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, 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.

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 some agents.

At headquarters, many in publishing work in comfortable, private offices, while others—particularly at newspapers—work in large, noisy, cubicle-filled rooms. 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. In 2006, occurrences of work-related injury and illness in the publishing industry ranged from an average of 1.6 per 100 full-time workers in periodical publishing to 3.7 per 100 full-time workers in newspaper publishing, lower than the average of 4.4 per 100 full-time workers for all private industry.

Employment [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

The publishing industry provided 660,000 wage and salary jobs in 2006. In addition, there were 32,000 self-employed workers. 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. Half of the establishments in the publishing industry have less than 5 employees, but 2 out of 5 jobs are in establishments with over 250 employees (chart 1).

Half of the establishments in the publishing industry have less than 5 employees, but over 40 percent of jobs are in establishments with 250 or more.

Occupations in the Industry [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Most occupations in the publishing industry fall into 1 of 4 categories: Writing and editing; production; advertising sales 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 are printed by companies in the printing industry. Differences also exist depending on the size of the company and the variety of media in which the company publishes.

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 email. They must then organize their material and write it down in a coherent manner that will interest and entertain readers. 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 it 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 truck drivers, light and delivery 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.

Because books do not have advertising, book publishers 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 by occupation, 2006 and projected change, 2006-2016.
(Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2006 Percent
Number Percent

All occupations

660 100.0 -7.5

Management, business, and financial occupations

64 9.7 -4.1

General and operations managers

11 1.7 -13.5

Advertising and promotions managers

3 0.4 -14.3

Marketing and sales managers

8 1.3 -3.6

Computer and information systems managers

3 0.4 -2.5

Financial managers

3 0.4 -3.0

Accountants and auditors

6 0.9 -3.2

Professional and related occupations

192 29.1 -4.4

Computer programmers

3 0.5 -20.9

Computer software engineers

6 1.0 18.0

Computer support specialists

4 0.6 -3.3

Computer systems analysts

3 0.5 6.7

Market research analysts

6 0.8 -0.8

Art directors

5 0.8 -2.8

Graphic designers

27 4.0 -1.7

Reporters and correspondents

39 5.9 -3.0

Public relations specialists

3 0.4 -2.0


59 9.0 -11.1

Writers and authors

8 1.2 -7.9


6 0.9 -12.8

Sales and related occupations

100 15.1 1.7

First-line supervisors/managers of non-retail sales workers

8 1.1 -11.4

Advertising sales agents

54 8.1 10.9

Sales representatives, services, all other

7 1.0 9.5

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

12 1.8 -2.4


12 1.8 -24.6

Door-to-door sales workers, news and street vendors, and related workers

3 0.4 -13.2

Office and administrative support occupations

156 23.6 -11.8

First-line supervisors/managers of office and administrative support workers

10 1.5 -11.6

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

11 1.7 -6.2

Customer service representatives

20 3.0 4.7

Order clerks

8 1.2 -39.1

Receptionists and information clerks

5 0.7 -8.4

Production, planning, and expediting clerks

5 0.7 -2.4

Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks

4 0.6 -5.6

Executive secretaries and administrative assistants

11 1.6 -3.9

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive

7 1.0 -15.5

Desktop publishers

11 1.7 -3.0

Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service

11 1.7 -33.6

Office clerks, general

20 3.1 -8.0

Proofreaders and copy markers

4 0.7 -4.4

Production occupations

76 11.4 -12.5

First-line supervisors/managers of production and operating workers

7 1.0 -8.5

Bindery workers

6 0.9 -10.3

Job printers

7 1.0 -8.9

Prepress technicians and workers

16 2.4 -17.7

Printing machine operators

20 3.1 -9.8

Packaging and filling machine operators and tenders

4 0.6 -21.7

Transportation and material moving occupations

62 9.4 -18.2

Driver/sales workers

9 1.3 -22.0

Truck drivers, light or delivery services

11 1.7 -11.9

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

14 2.1 -17.1

Machine feeders and offbearers

12 1.8 -20.4

Packers and packagers, hand

9 1.3 -27.9

Note: Columns may not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment

Training and Advancement [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

The ability to communicate well is one of the most important skills needed to enter the publishing industry. Although it is especially critical for those in the editorial and sales departments, it is also required for those in production, who may be called upon to compose text. 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 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. One advances in these fields 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] Back to TopBack to Top

Employment in publishing is expected to see a moderate decline as newspapers continue to lose subscribers and jobs, but book, periodical and directory publishing remaining stable. Additionally, keen competition is expected for most job openings for writers and editors.

Employment change. Over the period 2006–16, wage and salary employment in publishing, except software, is projected to decline 7 percent, compared with 11 percent growth for all industries combined. Whether published in print or using electronic media, books, newspapers, and magazines will continue to be needed to keep people informed and entertained. However, efficiencies in production and a trend towards using more freelance workers will cause overall employment to decline, predominantly in the newspaper publishing segment.

Newspaper subscriptions 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. Those working in company administration also are more productive. Efficiencies will be particularly apparent in the printing plants. In addition to multiple newspapers being printed at one location due to clustering, computerization of the printing process has become widespread. With increasing regularity, printing plates will be made directly from electronic images of publications’ pages, which have been developed, stored, and transmitted by computer. 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 postpress.

As lines between information mediums begin to blur, workers may be required to work in broadcasting, print, 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 also 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.”

Over the next decade, employment in periodical and book publishing, along with miscellaneous publishing, will be relatively flat. Magazine turnover will dull the need for additional workers in this publishing segment. However, other segments of publishing are expected to exhibit increased demand for new workers. The segment of the industry producing textbooks is expected to benefit from a growing number of high school and college students over the next decade and the need to implement new learning standards in classrooms. Technical and scientific books and journals also will be needed to relay new discoveries to the public. Custom publishing is a new type of publishing in which a specialized firm or magazine publisher produces customized newsletters and magazines for clients. Custom publishing also is expected to grow as more businesses and organizations use this format to directly market new products to clients and to retain customer loyalty.

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, when the economy is down, 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 can work in multiple mediums. Most newspapers and magazines, in particular, now have Web sites that must be regularly updated and 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.

Job opportunities vary among occupations. However, one can expect keen competition for most writing and editing jobs in this industry, which attracts a large number of applicants, especially at nationally known publications. Writers with specialized knowledge and those who can write on subjects appealing to minority and ethnic readers will have better job prospects.

Job openings for advertising sales agents are expected to be good, because turnover in this occupation is generally high, and new workers are always in demand 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] Back to TopBack to Top

Industry earnings. Average weekly earnings for workers in the publishing industry varied by type of publication. In 2006, average weekly earnings were $759 in periodical publishing, $674 in book publishing, and $598 in newspaper publishing, compared with $568 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. Earnings for selected occupations in publishing appear in table 3.

Table 3. Median hourly earnings of the largest occupations in publishing, except software, May 2006
Occupation Publishing, except software All industries


$22.10 $22.59

Advertising sales agents

17.73 20.55

Printing machine operators

17.27 14.90

Graphic designers

16.49 19.18

Reporters and correspondents

15.24 16.09

Prepress technicians and workers

15.17 16.01

Customer service representatives

13.42 13.62

Office clerks, general

11.40 11.40


10.79 10.09

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

9.78 10.20

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. Twelve percent of workers in the newspaper industry are union members or are covered by a contract as compared to 13 percent for all industries combined. The Newspaper Guild-CWA is the major union representing most nonsupervisory employees in the newspaper industry.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

For information about careers in book publishing, contact:

For information about careers in newspaper publishing, contact:

  • Newspaper Association of America, 4401 Wilson Blvd., Suite 900, Arlington, VA 22203. Internet:
  • American Society of Newspaper Editors, 11690 B Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20191. Internet:

For information about careers in periodical or magazine publishing, contact:

  • Magazine Publishers of America, 810 Seventh Ave., 24th Floor, New York, NY 10019 Internet:

Information on most occupations in the publishing industry may be found in the 2008–09 Occupational Outlook Handbook. Among those occupations are:

NAICS Codes [About the NAICS codes] Back to TopBack to Top


Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition, Publishing, Except Software, on the Internet at (visited September 17, 2008 ).


Last Modified Date: December 18, 2007