Publishing as a Cultural Industry
1. Publishing, particularly as defined on this site, is a “cultural” activity. Whatever else it may achieve, it is the major basis by which a country’s culture is developed, expressed and recorded. Because much of this cultural activity relates to making money through the sale of its products and byproducts, it is also an industry: “the organized action of making of goods and services for sale.”
2. The notion of “cultural industries” is modern, reflecting, I think, an essentially bureaucratic desire to find a way to classify culture within the broader context of accountable governance. How are civil servants, charged with keeping our countries afloat, to account for poets and ballet dancers? First of all by classifying their activities into economic groups, and those groups into the cultural industries.
3. In North America, in the 1930s, a method was developed to keep a statistical track of all industrial activity. The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system was the first devised to classify establishments by the type of activity in which they were mainly engaged so as to compare establishment data from various facets of the U.S. economy. It did not include a classification “cultural industries,” nor did it classify many of the activities that today are seen as part of this comparatively irregular phenomenon.
4. Not surprisingly, change being what it is, (as the NAICS site explains) “in recent years, rapid changes in both the U.S. and world economies brought the SIC under increasing criticism.” All of this led from the SIC method for classifying moneymaking activities to the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System, 2002). Without a doubt it is a far more rational way of examining the data from all North American industries, including the “cultural industries” – and hence the publishing industry.
5. Of course a system developed even so recently as the late 1980s is bound to be more representative of where we are today than one developed in the 1930s. But some (although not many) anomalies remain.
The Challenges of the NAICS to the Future of Cultural Industries
As described above, the NAICS does not fully encompass, on a statistical basis, the range of cultural industries today. There are several issues.
According to NAICS.org, “perhaps the most important change in NAICS is the recognition of a new Information sector. This new sector includes those establishments that create, disseminate, or provide the means to distribute information. It also includes establishments that provide data processing services. Industries included in this new sector are newspaper, book, and periodical publishers, previously included in the manufacturing sector in the SIC; software publishers, previously included in services; broadcasting and telecommunications producers and distributors, previously included with utilities and transportation; and motion picture and sound recording industries, information services, and data processing services, previously included in services.
“There are 34 industries included in this new subsector, 20 of which are new. Some of the new industries include paging, cellular and other wireless telecommunications, and satellite telecommunications.”
When you look closely at the categories above, you’d have to say the NAICS was amazingly prescient. Although I’ve not researched the full extent of the NAICS’ claim, I’d rather suspect that the system has been subject to modest revision over the years. Nonetheless, there are numerous useful categories available for consideration on this site.
2. Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation is defined by NAICS as “those businesses engaged in meeting the cultural, entertainment, and recreational interests of their patrons….Casinos and other gambling businesses are recognized for the first time in NAICS, as are historical sites and sports teams and clubs. In all, there are 25 industries in the sector, most of which are new — 19 in all. While most of the industries in the sector come from the SIC Services division, others come from Retail Trade and Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate.”
Oddly enough, while culture clearly abounds in these listings, very few are relevant to the future of publishing. Bowling Centers — no. Zoos and Botanical Gardens — no. Amusement and Theme Parks — a stretch. But included above are also:
• Musical groups and artists, and
• Independent writers, artists and performers
I prefer to examine the economic activities of these groups within the categories of their producers, record companies and book publishers and so TheFutureofPublishing.com may fail to take proper account of artists and performers, per se.
The NAICS classification for manufacturing encompasses most of the industries that allow us to read on paper, whether books, newspapers or magazines, and in significant detail. This is very helpful.
You’ll find references to NAICS data throughout this site. As with all data, whether collected by civil servants or entrepreneurs, its inclusiveness, currency and comprehensiveness will always be subject to debate. But comparative systems of data are more valuable than disparate systems, and NAICS will often help clarify the answers to some tough questions on where publishing is headed.