The Impact of Press Digitisation on Journalists' Income: Evidence from France

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.1.04 (Tower One)
Clémence Aubert-Tarby, Paris School of Business, Paris, France; Paris School of Business, Paris, France
Octavio Escobar, Paris School of Business, Paris, France; Paris School of Business, Paris, France
Thierry Rayna, Novancia Business School Paris, Paris, France; Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
Amongst the industries that have been affected by the advent of the Internet and other digital technologies, the mass media industry, and the press in particular, have arguably been the most disrupted. The competition from online outlets has severely undermined the profitability of even the best-established newspapers and magazines. As a result, countless of newspapers and magazines have closed down since the early 2000s, including some who were over 100 years old. While some have consequently come back to life in an online-only (and often lighter) format, some historic landmarks of the media industry have simply vanished. The newspapers and magazines that have survived have had to adapt their business model to the new competition. Yet, a sustainable business model is, in most cases, yet to be found.

The demise of the press has had dramatic consequences on the labour market, as even newspapers and magazines that have survived have made drastic cuts their labour force. In the U.S. alone, 16,200 newspaper jobs and 38,000 magazine jobs were wiped out between 2003 and 2012 (Jurkowitz, 2014) and while ‘online’ jobs are on the rise, they account for less than 10% of the jobs destroyed (White, 2012). But beyond the cuts, the working conditions of journalists have also, in most cases, taken a turn for the worse. Whereas working for the press used to be a full-time permanent job, nowadays, temp workers and freelancers make up for the majority of jobs (up to 60% in some European Countries).

However, while global trends have been observed, there has not been to this date a study that investigates in details the impact of digitisation on the press labour market. In particular, the question of the actual impact of digitisation on the income of journalists has, until now, been left aside

This is precisely this question that this paper intends to address. This research is based on the joint statistical analysis of two databases for the years 2011–2012. The first database is an exhaustive individual-level (e.g. age, gender, income, position) of all French professional journalists (13,800 observations). The second database consists of online and print sales data for all French newspapers and magazines (481 observations).

The main result of this study is that digitisation has, overall, a positive impact on the journalists’ earnings. However, beyond digitisation, other criteria (market share of the journal, gender, education, experience, type of job) play a significant role in income disparity. Altogether, results show that the positive impact of digitisation is greater for permanent members of staff than for temp/freelance workers, that digitisation is slightly more beneficial to women than men and that having a recognised degree enables to reap more benefits from digitisation.