“Awful! I can’t make a living anymore,” Frances says as a curlicue of steam wafts from her cup of hot tea, blurring for an instant the dark circles around her pale blue eyes. “Gigs that used to pay $500 a few years ago now pay $50 — if you’re lucky.”
An accomplished reporter who was embedded with troops in Iraq and has written for some of Europe’s most prestigious periodicals, my friend was bemoaning the fact that writing pieces for newspapers and magazines has become the worst job — literally. Frances’s story merely illustrates one example in a disturbing trend from the past five years.
Journalists now officially have the most undesirable vocation in America. Earlier this spring The Wall Street Journal reports that in a 2013 CareerCast.com list of 200 careers, reporters rank dead last. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other government agencies, the survey is based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook.
The digital revolution that has made the world’s papers accessible to everyone with a few clicks on a browser has also decimated ad revenue. Print advertising dollars have turned into digital dimes.
A study by The Newspaper Association of America, via the Pew Research Center, estimates the industry garnered $49.2 billion in 2006. By 2012, total revenue more than halved, falling to $22.3 billion.
News-gathering organizations have slashed staff rosters and freelance writers’ fees. It has become nearly impossible for the average print journalist to earn a decent wage, especially in New York City, where the cost of living remains outrageously expensive.
The outlook for the future of journalism appears no less bleak. The BLS predicts the number of reporter jobs will fall 6% by 2020, while average pay will continue to decline.
The venerable Frank Rich weighs in on the current state of American journalism in “Inky Tears” for New York Magazine. He writes, “You cannot work at any old-media organization, print or television, without having many friends and former colleagues who are seeking work, often outside the news business.”
So how can a reporter escape from reporting?
Concurrent to the decline in old-school media, brand journalism, also referred to as content marketing, has seen a tremendous boom. The Custom Content Council (CCC) reports that in 2012, total custom content spending ended the year at $43.9 billion dollars.
Companies like leading content production platform Skyword are hiring talented writers and editors to work with clients such as Hearst’s Popular Mechanics and other magazine titles, P&G, General Motors, UPS, and The Home Depot. More than 23,000 writers have already joined our community of content creators.
In the case of my friend Frances, I shared with her about the tremendous opportunities in the world of brand journalism. Soon she applied to Skyword’s freelance program. Now my chum supplements her income by writing and editing for IBM’s Midsize Insider, one of our star accounts since the program won Digiday’s 2013 Best Content Marketing Program. Frances hasn’t shared with me the specifics about her compensation, but her wide smile as she explains that Skyword pays better than other freelance opportunities leaves no doubt about her satisfaction.
My friend’s story illustrates merely one of thousands among Skyword’s writing community. Brand journalism can be a great escape from the worst job in America.
To learn more about how to become a Skywriter, please visit this page to learn about freelance writing opportunities.