The creative economy: remarks on the place of publishing

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recently published a statistical report entitled Creative Industries Economic Estimates – December 2011. It provides estimates for various measures of the UK’s creative economy: they include gross value-added, exports, employment, and number of enterprises. 

What does the report show about the publishing industry? The definition of publishing used in the report is broad: it includes books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and ‘digital content publishing’. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to separate out figures for each component.

From the figures for the publishing industry thus defined, three findings stand out to me. 

1. The recession has, not surprisingly, damaged the publishing industry. The data for gross value-added (GVA), covering the years 2008-9, indicate that GVA declined. Between 2009-11 the number of enterprises fell, from 10,820 to 9,700.

2. However, the statistics indicate that the publishing industry is relatively resilient. The above fall in GVA amounted to less than 1% – and, as a proportion of the creative economy in total, publishing’s contribution increased (albeit marginally). Moreover, between 2009-10 (the years for which data are provided) employment in publishing remained stable – in fact, that figure too slightly increased (from 241,881 to 243,809). 

3. As an exporter, the publishing industry outshines some of its more glamorous media counterparts. In 2009, the industry accounted for an estimated 3.1% of exports, compared to 2.6% for television and radio and 1.9% for film, video, and photography.

The statistics also raised some questions in my mind. The data for employment are broken down into various categories. They reveal that the overall increase in employment mentioned above results from some contrasting shifts. While the number for ‘Creative Employees in the Creative Industries’ fell quite sharply (from 60,893 to 54,596), the numbers for ‘Support Employees in the Creative Industries’ and ‘Employees doing creative jobs in other industries’ increased (from 96,215 to 100,682 and from 51,102 to 54,161 respectively).

It’s difficult to know what to make of this. The changes are relatively small and there must be some margin of error – and one wonders how stable those categories are, given that the headings aren’t exactly idiomatic. Perhaps, then, there has been no change in the underlying reality. I do find myself wondering, however, whether that rise in ‘Employees doing creative jobs in other industries’ perhaps reflects the way that new technology has made it easier for organisations beyond the publishing industry to publish.

 As for the changing ratio between Creative Employees in the Creative Industries and Support Employees in the Creative Industries (from 1:1.58 to 1:1.84), I would welcome suggestions for an explanation …

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