The Geographic Concentration of the Media

New York, Washington and Los Angeles dominate. That might have something to do with declining trust in the industry.

There's a bus leaving for New York.

Photographer: Marc Piscotty/getty images

During the great newspaper collapse that began in about 2006, national newspapers based in New York held up a bit better than regional ones, and Washington bureaus often survived even as papers axed every other outpost. At least, that was my impression. And sure enough, it shows up in the jobs data:

Shrinking Less Than the Rest

Share of U.S. employment in newspaper publishing

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

*Metropolitan areas

Just to be clear: Newspaper employment has been falling everywhere, from 360,491 jobs nationwide in 2006 to 190,357 in 2015. It’s just been falling less in the New York and Washington areas. Interestingly, newspaper wages have been rising faster in New York and Washington than everywhere else.

Getting Paid Better, Too

Average annual pay in newspaper publishing

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

*Metropolitan areas

This so perfectly fits the cliché of an embattled, increasingly elitist media retreating to its East Coast bastions that I guess I’ll just leave it at that, other than to point out that New York and Washington still account for only 11.2 percent of newspaper employment nationwide.

What about broadcasting, how do things look there? (All of my data here comes from the Quarterly Census of Employees and Wages, from which some first-quarter 2016 numbers were released Wednesday; the detailed industry numbers used in these charts are only compiled annually.)

Where the TV and Radio Jobs Are Going

Share of U.S. employment in broadcasting, excluding internet

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

*Metropolitan areas

The Los Angeles area is the nation’s broadcasting headquarters, and employment has actually been growing there. Meanwhile, broadcasting employment has been shrinking nationwide (from 327,935 jobs in 2006 to 279,873 in 2015) but shrinking relatively less in New York and Washington. I would guess that people you might classify as members of the news media take up a much higher percentage of broadcasting jobs in Washington and New York than in Los Angeles, and that the Los Angeles area’s broadcasting growth has been all about entertainment, not news. But it is still pretty strong evidence of a media centralization.

Next, there’s the one major media category that has actually been adding jobs: internet publishing and web search portals, which went from 71,768 jobs in 2007 (when the category was created) to 186,112 in 2015. There, the jobs have become increasingly concentrated in Silicon Valley and the New York area.

The Internet Is Centralizing, Too

Share of U.S. employment in internet publishing and web portals

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

*Metropolitan areas

So much for the internet destroying distance and decentralizing power, eh? It is true that these numbers all come from employers, meaning that the nation’s legions of self-employed bloggers and YouTube stars don’t show up. I doubt those legions are vast enough to make up for the centralization of internet media employment apparent here, though.

I checked a few other media sectors, all of them traditionally centered in New York. In periodical publishing (aka magazines), the New York area accounts for a quarter of all jobs, but that share has stayed about the same since 2006. In book publishing, the New York area's employment share has risen a little, from 21.8 percent in 2006 to 22.8 percent in 2015. In news syndicates -- that would include Bloomberg News -- the New York area’s employment share jumped from 32.5 percent in 2006 to 41.4 percent in 2015. (The Washington area is No. 2, at about 18 percent as of 2013, but more recent data isn’t available.)

Overall, the picture here seems to be clear. The media in the U.S. is becoming more geographically concentrated, and this is true of both declining sectors such as newspapers and rising ones such as internet publishing. I’ve got to think it is at least possible that the decline in Americans’ trust in the media -- which really got going, according to Gallup, around 2004 -- has something to do with this.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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    Justin Fox at

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