2004 Salary Survey Shows Unhappy Job-Satisfaction Results

Editors cite cutbacks, increased workloads, lack of recognition.

Complete results available to members online; nonmembers may purchase copies of the study.

Gosh, a lot of unhappy editors.

In ASBPE’s 2004 Salary Survey, conducted in May by Arcola Research Co., 39% of editors said they are more satisfied now than they were two years ago, 37% said they are less satisfied, and 23% feel about the same.

Of those editors who said they feel about the same, only half explained their answer. Of those, 18% said they were unsatisfied, while another 50% said there had been some improvement in their job but that many significant, troubling issues remained. When added to the 37% unsatisfied number, the total unsatisfied figure effectively increases to 43%. The satisfied number also effectively increases from 39% to 42%.

After recently hearing these results, one editorial director of several publications told attendees at a meeting of the Magazine Association of the Southeast, “We [editors] have always been unhappy.”

A humorous, if not jaded, perspective.

In two years, however, an editor’s situation can easily change, with promotions, more money, new responsibilities, and new management all conspiring to make the job environment better or worse.

Clearly, the editors who are more satisfied now cite reasons that run the gamut:

  • better economy
  • flexible hours
  • more money
  • more responsibility and editorial control
  • better understanding of the market their magazine covers
  • more management support
  • new challenges
  • better staff.

Nevertheless, a large number of editors are not satisfied at work. Again and again, editors in the survey cited budget cuts and increased workload, especially when staff positions are lost with no concomitant pay increase to balance the additional workload. This is an historic theme, for even when markets are doing well, low morale and high stress are significantly evident.

The following comments by survey respondents cover most of the dissatisfaction themes:

  • “Cutbacks due to economy. Went from six issues a year to four. Eliminated a graphic designer. Now I do it all, again.”
  • “Far less print space due to fewer ads. Far more unrewarded online projects/requirements. Layoffs of technically expert colleagues. Appointment of woefully inexperienced publishing and editorial leaders unwilling to maintain publication’s quality.”
  • “Fewer dollars are available for freelancers. More pressure to serve our advertisers inappropriately.”
  • “Business constraints and politics play a larger role in my job today, impacting my ability to lead the editorial team.”
  • “A significantly increased workload (with no additional staff positions allotted or expected) has increased stress and reduced morale. I (and my staff) feel much less appreciated/recognized than we did two years ago.”
  • “Company bought by larger, poorer quality company.”
  • “Doing senior editor-level work, but no promotion or hope of same. Workload is insane. No staff support. Management is rotten at communicating and following through with plans.”
  • “Nary a raise nor praise.”

What can be done? An improving economy will help, but a certain lack of both human resource competency and knowledge of the editorial process on the part of publication management apparently exists no matter the economic climate.

Compensation By Job Title

Notwithstanding the job satisfaction complaints, mean salaries increased 6.6% from last year’s $62,702 to $66,870 over all job titles. The overall median salary in 2004 was $60,000 compared to $57,000 in 2003, a 5.2% increase.

Table 1 shows both the current median and mean salaries for different job titles. All salary data included base salary as well any expected bonus.

Table 1. Compensation and Job Title

Job title
Mean Median
Executive-level editor $82,370 $72,489
Senior-level editor $52,955 $49,000
Mid-level editor $46,030 $45,800
Junior-level editor $35,698 $30,000
Writer $52,576 $46,250
Total $67,610 $60,000

More than 80% of the respondents for the entire study were senior-level and executive-level editors. Therefore, the values for the mid-level editor position on down should be viewed with some skepticism because the number of respondents in those job categories was relatively low.

However, given the numbers we do have, for junior-level editors for example, when one factors in age and years of experience, the median salary goes down to a somewhat more realistic $26,000 for editors under age 25 and who have less than two years of journalism experience.

Number of Magazines Worked

The survey also showed that more editors now are working on more than one magazine. Two years ago, 59% of the respondents worked on only one magazine. Now, the percentage is 46%.

Table 2. Compensation and the Number of Publications Edited

Pubs Edited Mean Median
One $64,164 $59,500
Two $63,457 $60,000
Three $65,674 $60,000
Four $77,944 $68,000
Five or more $77,333 $70,000
Total $66,267 $60,000

The data suggests this is more because of slow markets and budget constraints, rather than job promotions. Table 2 shows that median salary does not jump significantly with the number of magazines an editor works on until the number of magazines reaches four or more

Hours Worked

The number of editors working more than 40 hours is almost the same now (63%) as it was two years ago (62%). Even those editors working more than 50 hours a week is the same: 9% now and two years ago.

However, Table 3 shows a sharp increase in the correlation of hours with pay at the more than 50-hour-a-week level. The median salary here is $85,500, compared to $66,000 at the 46- to 50-hour level. Analysis of the variance shows that job title is significantly related to compensation, but hours worked is not, and the combination of the two also is not significant.

Table 3. Compensation and the Number of Hours Worked

Hours
Mean Median
Fewer than 40 $49,560 $47,500
40 hours $55,595 $52,000
41 to 45 hours $62,731 $60,000
46 to 50 hours $77,497 $66,000
More than 50 hours $103,075 $85,500
Total $66,898 $60,000

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