1997 ASBPE Editorial Salary Survey


1997 ASBPE Editorial Salary Survey

Good news in this year’s survey: pay increases for business editors are running ahead of inflation.

The American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) periodically conducts surveys of its members and other business press editors to determine salary levels and working conditions in the profession, and to profile the companies and publications for whom business press editors work. This current survey was conducted during the first half of 1997, and it is the first study of editorial pay in the trade and professional press exclusively in 10 years. No publishers, sales personnel or freelance writers were included in the sample.

ASBPE believes the results of this survey accurately mirror the contemporary makeup of the editorial side of the business press in terms of compensation, tenure, responsibility and performance. Further, the results reliably reflect the high level of job responsibility and job titles among Society’s membership.


Despite some widely circulated publications, most business and professional titles – over 80 percent – have fewer than 80,000 subscribers. Nearly half have circulations of between 10,000 and 50,000. Most (70 percent) are monthlies, but weekly, biweekly, bimonthly and other frequencies are also represented in the survey returns.

As the circulation figures might suggest, most of the publications represented do not generate large revenues. Nearly two-thirds of the publications polled for this study have revenues of under $2.5 million, and more than a third have revenues of less than $1 million. Somewhat surprising, given the fact that most respondents were senior editors, is the fact that 15 percent said they did not know the annual revenue figure for their publications. This statistic could either indicate lack of interest in business issues or, equally alarming in ASBPE’s view, a reluctance among publishers and publication managers to share business information with editors.



Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief: This position supervises both multiple publications and single publications. Responsibilities include making editorial policy and supervising others who report to this position.

Editor, Executive Editor: This individual is directly responsible for editorial content and production of a single publication. He or she reports to either the editor-in-chief or the publisher, depending on the structure of the organization or publication group. Often, he or she is responsible for policy making. Executive Editors may also be non-management positions with industry expertise.

Managing Editor: This title coordinates all facets of assembling and/or producing the editorial product and reports directly to the Editor, Executive Editor or Editor-in-Chief. In some instances, this is a writing position.

Staff Editor: Usually a writing or publication specialty position (e.g., News Editor, Features Editor, Production Editor), this person contributes to the overall content of publication either in an editorial or editorial production capacity.


In most cases (59 percent), a 40-hour work week is the normal work schedule among business publishers. Thirty-four percent of respondents indicated a shorter work week, and only 7 percent indicated a longer one. But as in most industries, the business press demands – and usually gets – more than the official number of work hours. Only six percent of editors said they work no extra hours and 21 percent said they average 10 hours or more of overtime weekly.

There is a considerable pay range within job titles, especially at higher levels. The range for staff editors is relatively small, while that of a senior editorial title varies by as much as $20,000. Factors that influence this range include experience, seniority, number of publications supervised and circulation. Median salaries move significantly upwards when professional experience, diversity of publishing skills, age and employment at a publication with larger circulation (50,000+) are factored in.

Pay increases in 1997 are running ahead of general inflation for most business press editors. Eight-four percent of those surveyed scored raises of 3 percent or better, and 18 percent received pay hikes of 6 percent or more. An alarming 12 percent of respondents received no salary increase in calendar year 1997, however.


Disparity between salaries of men and women continues to be a fact of life in the business press – as it is in most businesses. At the entry level, men average 9 percent more than women in the same job group. At upper levels (Editor, Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Director), however, the difference drops to around 5 percent. Disparity at the upper editorial management levels may not be completely attributable to gender bias, however. Experience, education and, especially, tenure influence pay as well, and it is difficult to say with certainty how large a role, if any, gender bias plays.

There can be little doubt, however, that women are making dramatic inroads into upper editorial management positions. Contrary to some published surveys – including past ASBPE surveys – this study finds that over the past 15 years, women have moved rapidly into senior positions in the business press. This survey of primarily senior editors drew a 51:49 ratio of male to female respondents – a change from the 57:43 ratio in a similar survey just five years ago and a 60:40 ratio 10 years ago.


Job Security

With the current spate of acquisition and consolidation in the business and professional press, one would expect job security to be a concern among business press editors. Some of the senior editors who participated in this study in fact expressed trepidation, but most indicated no genuine concern over job security. The current strong economy may account for some of this lack of concern. Further, senior editors may be more immune to the vagaries of the editorial job market than their more junior colleagues. Perhaps, on the heels of a period of rampant downsizing in American business, editors have simply come to accept a certain level of insecurity.

Interestingly, there seems to be a geographical bias in these figures. Most of the “uncertain” and “reasonably solid” responses came from the Northeast.

New Opportunities

The rapid development of online communications has created the first new job title in the business press in several decades. The all-new title and responsibility, “Web Editor,” is one area where business press editors may find an alternative to the all-too-familiar traditional progression through the ranks. Online publishing presents an opportunity to “bust out” and create an all-new job with new responsibilities and an as-yet-unfettered career path.

Job descriptions and compensation norms are yet to be established, and there is no data to indicate trends, benchmarks or even an averages. (Future ASBPE salary surveys will track this job title.) It is by no means a foregone conclusion that new media jobs will be staffed and managed by individuals with traditional print journalism backgrounds. Particularly on corporate Web sites, computer technicians and newly minted “knowledge specialists” are commonly in charge of Web content. ASBPE’s position is that conventional journalistic skills will in the long run prove more valuable to Web publishers than computer or network expertise.


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