Digiday+ Research: Fewer publishers added staff in 2022 as economic troubles loomed

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Unfortunately, staff cuts and layoffs are on the brain these days — for publishers just as much as any other industry. And on that note, staff increases were down for publishers last year, with the economy as a likely driving factor, according to data from Digiday+ Research.

We already know that there’s a lack of confidence among publishers when it comes to revenues heading into the new year. To follow that, in a December survey of more than 70 publisher professionals, Digiday found that fewer publishers added staff last year than the year before, and that publishers expect the economy to be a drag on business into 2023.

The percentage of publishers who said their full-time staff increased fell from 58% in 2021 to 41% in 2022, Digiday’s survey found. Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who said their staff decreased jumped to 29% last year, up from 19% the year prior. Just under a third of publishers (30%) said their full-time staff was unchanged in 2022, up from 23% in 2021.

Another notable difference between Digiday’s survey results in 2022 and 2021 is the number of publishers who said their staff increased significantly. Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) said their full-time staff increased significantly in 2021, compared with only 12% who said the same in 2022. And while the percentage of those who said their staff decreased significantly held steady at a very small 4% between 2021 and 2022, the percentage of publisher pros who said their staff decreased somewhat shot up from 15% in 2021 to 25% in 2022.

These trends in publishers’ staffing make sense when we compare them to Digiday’s data on how they feel about the economy.

Digiday’s survey found that the majority of publishers agree that the economy hurt their companies’ performances in 2022 and that it will continue to do so in 2023 — which provides one explanation for the drop in publishers’ staff increases. Specifically, 62% of publisher pros agreed that the economy hurt their companies last year, with 59% agreeing that it will hurt in 2023 as well.

The most significant difference between 2022 and 2023 is actually among the respondents who disagree that the economy is hurting their companies: 19% of publishers disagreed that the economy hurt their performance in 2022, but that percentage dropped to only 6% when they thought ahead to this year.

Breaking down the data even further, it turns out that not one respondent to Digiday’s survey said they disagreed strongly that the economy will hurt their company’s performance in 2023. Six percent disagreed strongly that the economy hurt their performance in 2022.


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