’14 Survey: State of Boating Journalism

Boating journalists are doing a good job keeping up with the technological, product and structural changes taking place in the marine industry they cover, but there are significantly fewer writers and they are growing older and poorer in the process. (Link to complete survey here.)

This thumbnail sketch is taken from the May 2014 survey of members of Boating Writers International compared with a similar analysis made five years ago. This year, 85 of 300 Active members (those who are active writers and communicators) provided feedback; in 2009, 95 of 400 Active members provided responses. The 25 percent drop in BWI membership in that time frame is reflective of significant consolidation in both the recreational marine and boating publishing industries.

The writers report widespread participation in the shift to digital in writing, running their businesses and promoting themselves. Close to half (46%) maintain their own websites, one third are active with blogs and forums, and 18% are posting videos on line. They are engaged on Facebook (70%), LinkedIn (67%), Google (40%) and Twitter (25%).

Magazines continue to be the primary clients for the writers, noted by 79% of respondents in ’14 and 83% in ’09, while blogging and website development work increased to 40% from 27% in the same period. Other notable changes in revenue sources shifted in marketing/advertising work to 28% from 9%, videography to 17% from 10%, and book writing to 21% from 17%. Revenue reported from newsletters, editing, public relations, TV and radio decreased in the period.

The boat writing profession continues to be populated by 70% men and 30% women, little changed over the past five years. The largest age group, 38%, moved into the 60-70-year range from the 50-60-year range, now 25%, in the period. Under 50 members now total 19% while the over 70 crowd grew to 15% from 9%. Annual income generally shifted downward, reflected in 29% of the writers reporting less than $10,000, the largest category, followed by those making  $20K – $30K (9% down from 13%) and $30K – $40K (unchanged at 8%). Three other income categories increased, led by $60K – $70K to 8% from 6%. Overall, the income change from 2012 to 2013 was reported by roughly equal thirds of the members as up, down or the same.

Asked how BWI could help them to improve their endeavors, members pointed to better understanding social networking and new technologies, marketing their work to traditional and digital publishing outlets and improving their blogging potential. They also seek more information on jobs and freelancing opportunities, ways to better monetize their digital efforts, and greater networking with their peers and industry personnel.

To see more detail on the survey and answers to open-ended questions and “other” comments, click here.