Every year, ABM takes an in-depth look at the workings of the industry in its Managing Profits report. I recently analyzed the 2012 data on editorial operations at print b-to-b magazines, and some interesting benchmarks stood out.
The research considered 45 different brands that included print magazine publishing as a source of revenue. In total, the 45 brands generated 54 percent of their aggregate revenue from print. However, the range was vast, from one brand that derived just 3 percent of revenue from print, to four that were 100 percent print specialized.
Looking at 45 brands that publish magazines, average number of editorial pages per editor per year is 109, and the median number of editorial pages per editor per year is 146. The scatter in this data is wide, with nine brands reporting less than 50 pages per editor, and 6 brands reporting more than 300 pages per editor. For brands reporting higher than 20 percent margins (on the brand level), 11 out of 14 produced 125 pages per editor or more. For brands reporting negative profitability, only one out of seven hit that benchmark.
The 45 brands produced 69 magazines, 30,000 editorial pages and $101 million in print ad revenue. On average, these brands saw print profitability in the 30 percent range (that’s on the brand level, not company-wide).
If you graph pages per editor on the vertical axis of a graph and print profitability on the horizontal axis, you get a graph that looks like this:
The correlation here suggests that editors are more productive (they process more pages per year) at more print-focused brands. That is, for brands that generate significant revenue from non-print sources, editors process fewer pages per year, presumably because they are processing content for online and event functions.
There is also a correlation between pages per editor and percent of revenue generated by print operations. A possible interpretation is that editors are more productive (they process more pages per year) at more profitable print brands, perhaps because more profitable brands generate more ad pages, and to support those ad pages, more editorial pages are needed. Thus, editorial staff at profitable print brands are more productive than those at unprofitable brands. For brands reporting higher than 25 percent print margins (on the brand level), the median editorial productivity metric reached 200 pages per editor per year. For brands reporting negative profitability, the median was 78 pages per editor per year. Of course, the more likely causal arrow points in the direction of increased ad pages leading to increased productivity as more work piles up, not that increasing editorial productivity drives higher profits.
Note: An “editor” is a staff member listed as compensated through the editorial line, as opposed to sales, marketing, general admin, etc. Thus, “editors” includes designers, copy editors, writers, graphic artists, managers, etc.
By Michael Moran Alterio