Showing posts with label information. Show all posts
Showing posts with label information. Show all posts

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Employment changes in Information industries after Covid -19 shutdowns

Efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 are having mixed effects on jobs in industries that produce, distribute, and sell information products.

There are six Information industries which employed about 2.8 million people in February before stay home orders began. Almost 9 percent of Information jobs were lost by April, according to preliminary labor department statistics.

Jobs were lost in five of the six industries. The Motion Picture and Sound Recording industry was hardest hit, almost half of its 456,000 jobs were gone by April.  Four other industries suffered job losses ranging from almost 5 percent in Broadcasting to less than 1 percent in Telecommunications.

The sixth industry, Other Information Services, increased employment by 1 percent. Other Information includes search engines and digital publishers and broadcasters.

This post describes changes in employment for all six Information industries from May 2019-April 2020. I also report employment in selected occupations as of May, 2019.

The first chart shows aggregate employment in all six industries.


The chart (above) shows monthly changes in Information sector employment. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is seasonally adjusted to remove the influence of  predictable influences such as seasonal changes or holiday hiring. This provides a more accurate estimate of changes caused by factors like the pandemic.

March and April employment statistics are preliminary and subject to revision.

The six Information industries employed more than 2.8 million people from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industries lost an estimated 258,000 jobs in March and April, a decline of 8.9 percent.

Information is part of the private, nonfarm business sector which employed 129.7 million people in February 2020. The sector lost an estimated 20.4 million jobs in March and April, a decline of  15.7 percent.

Subsequent charts report employment in each of the six industries from the least affected to the most affected.



The second chart (above) shows Other Information Services, which includes search engines, internet-only publishing and broadcasting, and web sites that store and provide information.

Employment increased by 19,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. Other Information employed 354,400 people in February. 

The industry added an estimated 3,500 jobs by April, an increase of about 1 percent.

The table (below) reports 2019 employment in selected occupations. This is the most recent available data.


Employment in selected occupations is a rough indicator of the relative importance of specific jobs. However, these jobs may not be evenly distributed across the entire industry.

About 6 percent of Other Information employees were in Media occupations in 2019. Half were editors, and less than 2 percent were reporters

Editors may be employed at digital firms that do and do not produce original content. Reporters, however, are concentrated at a small number of digital news publications.

Computer jobs (not shown) are also reported for each industry to provide a comparison. Computer jobs and technology can be used to produce, distribute, and sell media and other information products.  

Computer jobs were 24.2 percent of employment in Other Information in 2019.


The third chart (above) shows Telecommunications, which includes distribution and services for telephones, cable and satellite broadcasting, and internet access.

Employment in Telecommunications decreased by about 16,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry employed about 700,000 people in February.

An estimated 5,900 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 0.84 percent.


Media occupations were less than 1 percent of this industry in 2019. The industry does not produce original media content, so this is expected.

Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for 16.3 percent of employment in Telecommunications.


The fourth chart (above) shows Publishing, which includes newspapers, magazines, books, directories and software publishing. 

Employment in Publishing increased by about 12,000 people from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry had 770,000 jobs in February.

An estimated 15,400 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 2 percent.


Media workers were about 10 percent of all Publishing jobs in 2019. Editors were almost 6 percent of industry jobs, probably because editors were employed by magazines and book publishers in addition to newspapers. Reporters were 2.5 percent of the industry, jobs that were concentrated in newspapers.

Computer occupations (not shown) accounted for 31 percent of Publishing jobs in 2019. Computer jobs may be more widely distributed than media jobs in this industry.



The fifth chart (above) shows Data Processing, which includes hosting and providing data processing services.

Employment increased by about 13,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. Data Processing employed about 349,000 people in February.

An estimated 7,100 jobs were lost by April, a decrease of 2 percent.


Less than 1 percent of jobs were in Media occupations in 2019. This is another industry that does not produce media content.

Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for 40 percent of Data Processing employment. This is expected because the industry is defined by computing.


The sixth chart (above) shows Broadcasting, an industry that creates, acquires and distributes content via radio, television, cable and other subscription services.

Broadcasting employment decreased by about 4,000 jobs from May 2019-Feb. 2020. The industry employed 263,300 people in February.

Broadcasting lost an estimated 13,000 jobs by April, a decrease of 4.9 percent.


About 21 percent of Broadcasting jobs were in Media occupations in 2019. Broadcast Announcers and Disc Jockeys were 9 percent of all jobs, probably because they were employed by television and radio stations.

Reporters were about 6 percent of all jobs and camera operators and editors were 3.6 percent of jobs, possibly because these were concentrated at television stations.

Computer jobs (not shown) accounted for just 4.8 percent of Broadcasting employment in 2019.


The seventh chart (above) shows Motion Picture and Sound Recording, which includes the production and distribution of motion pictures and sound recordings.

Employment was steady at about 450,000 people until February 2020. 

The industry lost an estimated 220,500 jobs by April, or about 48 percent.

This unusually large decline may result from collaboration between many people in the same place when making a movie or a recording. Covid-19 makes physical proximity dangerous.


Only 3.5 percent of Motion Picture and Sound jobs were in Media occupations in 2019.

Camera operators and editors were listed as a major category, accounting for another 3.5 percent of all jobs. There were more than twice as many camera operators and editors, 27,560, as in Broadcasting with 9,690. 

Computer jobs (not shown) were just 1.5 percent of employment in Motion Pictures and Sound.

Comments

Employment changes during the pandemic are probably influenced by whether employees can keep working, how much demand and revenue still exists for the industry's products, and long-term employment trends.

The pandemic has slowed but not ended job increases for Other Information Services. This may be because employees can work from home. This may also result from increased demand for internet services when millions of people were ordered to stay home as much as possible. Online advertising is generally cheaper than ads in Broadcasting or Publishing, so increased demand also means the industry can continue selling ads.

The smallest adverse effects on employment so far appear to be for industries where technology may allow people to work from home, such as Data Processing and Telecommunications. However, both industries employ thousands of sales agents who may be unable to work. Telecommunications demand for cell phone services may also be affected if customers are losing their jobs and incomes.

Publishing may also be suffering fewer adverse effects if book and magazine editors and computer employees can work from home. Employment in Publishing as a whole was increasing before the pandemic.

Newspaper employment was decreasing before the pandemic because advertising revenue has shifted to Other Information companies. Many newspapers are using furloughs to avoid layoffs, which may temporarily moderate job losses from the pandemic.

The largest adverse effects appear to be industries where workers must gather in the same location to produce news and entertainment products. Broadcasting is also losing advertising revenue because large advertisers are reducing spending as consumers buy fewer advertised products.

Most dramatically, Motion Picture and Sound Recording jobs vanished as the production of movies and television programs shut down.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Coronavirus is a test for local journalism, will it pass?


Information and misinformation about the new Coronavirus has for weeks been easily available to anyone with an Internet connection -- i.e. almost everyone in the United States. So news organizations that don't cover this story until the virus is detected in their community are failing an important test.

People want information because they are justifiably concerned about the Coronavirus. Many people are getting sick, and some are dying. There is not yet a medicine or vaccine to treat the virus.  Mobile phones and computers make it easy to find, follow, and share reports about the virus on social media, search engines, and websites.


Local journalists compete directly with the information that people are finding on the internet. Journalists who aren't covering this story are losing this competition and signaling irrelevance to potential audiences. This is not a good strategy when local journalism is struggling to survive.

Searches coincide with developments in the news

I live in Athens, Ohio, a state that has not yet reported any infections. But Google's data on the volume of Coronavirus searches shows interest in Ohio coincides with major news about the virus.



The chart compares Ohio searches on the topic of Coronavirus with Ohio searches on the topic of the flu from December to March. Each topic includes many different search terms. Interest is measured on a scale from zero to 100, where 100 represents a peak in searches.1 

The chart begins Dec. 31, 2019, when China first reported the new virus to the world, according to a timeline in the New York Times. Searches for informaiton on the flu have not changed much in response to virus news, but the opposite is true for Coronavirus. 

The first Coronavirus case in the United States was reported on Jan. 21, 2020, the day the first spike in Ohio searches begins. The Trump administration announced restrictions on travel from China on Jan. 31, 2020, which was followed by the rapid decline in searches that ended the first spike.

The second spike in Coronavirus searches began Feb. 23, 2020, the day that authorities in Italy responded to a major outbreak by shutting down some Italian towns. The next day the Trump administration asked Congress for $1.25 billion to combat the virus in the United States. Searches in Ohio have been spiking ever since.

The trends in Ohio show journalists throughout the state should have been covering the story no later than Jan. 21.

I live in Athens, home to Ohio University which has extensive international connections and a medical school. So I've been surprised by the lack of coverage in two local newspapers that claim to serve the community. The first Coronavirus story that I read in either paper was just published in The Athens News three days ago, March 4, 2020.I might have missed some earlier stories, but that's because there were few or none.

Ohio is not uniquely interested in Coronavirus. Google data shows interest across the United States coinciding with the same major developments in the Coronavirus story.




Journalists can develop unique local stories

Coronavirus is a complicated story involving science, public health, politics, and local jobs and businesses. So many local journalists will probably have to learn a lot of new information at the same time they are covering the story.

Repeating information that is already available on the internet will not make local stories competitive. Local journalists must provide new and valuable information to attract and hold audience attention.


Fortunately, the internet also gives local journalists direct access to the global conversation among experts trying to contain the virus. This makes it possible to quickly find accurate information that can be used to develop differentiated local stories. 

For example, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has warned that local health departments and hospitals might be rapidly overwhelmed if the virus becomes epidemic. His concerns are discussed on his Twitter feed (@ScottGottliebMD), which also references his op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.


Local journalists who publish stories on the limited resources available to fight an epidemic are likely to attract an audience that will stay with them for additional coverage. 


Journalists risk losing audiences if they don't cover this story

Local news organizations have limited staff. Many local newspapers are struggling financially. But journalists who don't re-order priorities to provide continuing coverage of the Coronavirus risk making those problems worse.

When someone is concerned or frightened they keep looking until they find information that answers their concern. Someone who cannot get local Coronavirus information from their community newspaper or television station will go elsewhere to find what they need. They might never return.


The Coronavirus is a major test of credibility for local journalists. But the virus is also an opportunity for journalists to show audiences why their work matters. I hope journalists pass this test.


1  According to Google, trends data is based on representative samples of all searches on a topic. The samples are used to create an index measuring the proportion of searches on a topic. Increases/decreases mean a larger/smaller proportion of searches in Ohio or the United States were about Coronavirus or the flu. This shows increases/decreases in interest about a topic. Charts do not show the actual number of searches.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Exchanging Information in Newsgroups

The economics of information are particularly important on the web where reproduction and distribution costs are remarkably small. This guest post describes new research on information distribution in newsgroups. The post was generously provided by one of the study's authors.

Identifying Discussion Leaders and Information Sources
by Itai Himmelboim1

Here’s some old news: one of the greatest promises of the Internet is the ability for anyone with a PC and Internet connection to join forums on any topic imaginable and contribute, consume and exchange information and opinions. Information is available via a wide range of old sources (news websites) and new sources (blogs, forums, personal websites and news aggregators such as Google News).

Robert Nye said once that a richness of information leads to a poverty of attention. In a study I conducted with Marc Smith and Eric Gleave from Microsoft Research, the Netscan dataset was used to follow patterns of replies – indicators of attention – in 20 political newsgroups between July and December 2006.

It wasn’t a surprise to find that in all newsgroups, relatively few participants attracted a relatively large portion of the discussion to threads they started. After all, literature illustrates that large networks – be they of people, websites or even genes – tend to show a power-law distribution in which few participants receive a large and disproportional number of links – in our case, replies – from other participants. With that in mind, we began to explore the role that this small number of highly connected participants play in their groups.

We identified these highly replied participants using a range of statistical measures including: success in starting new threads, the percentage of all messages in a group that appeared in threads they started, as well as the percentage of individuals in the group that participated in these threads. We found only a handful of such highly connected participants in each group, making them less than one percent of the population in their newsgroups. Many of these participants attracted more than one-half of the discussion to threads they started. We decided to name them Discussion Catalysts, or DCs.

Deciding what to talk about

Discussion catalysts may not tell fellow group members what to say, but according to their attention grabbing records, they do tell groups what to talk about. Our next step was to determine what information they brought to the table.

Content analysis of messages that discussion catalysts used to start threads revealed an interesting phenomenon. If you thought, like I did, that political discussions in newsgroups start with an individual’s opinion, you may be surprised to find that this study shows otherwise. DCs play the role of content importers. They go outside their groups to the World Wide Web – news sites, blogs and other websites – search for interesting articles, and bring them to groups to discuss.

Another interesting finding was that although DCs import content from a range of sources, most of the articles came from traditional news sites such as the Washington Post and Associated Press. Less than one tenth of the entries came from blogs.

So what does all this tell us? First, although the Internet is free and open by its nature, when we interact freely, we tend to create a structure in which few of us get a lot and most of us get very little. Second, even when we use relatively new platforms for political discussions, the information comes from good (?), old news organizations. Why? Well, I’ll leave that for you to discuss.

1 Itai Himmelboim is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.