Survey shows marine journalists see age and income shifts

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Boating journalists are doing a good job of 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.

Writers also reported widespread participation in the shift to digital in writing, running their businesses and promoting themselves.

The thumbnail sketch is taken from a May 2014 survey of members of Boating Writers International, compared with a similar analysis five years ago.

The profession continues to be 70 percent men and 30 percent women, little changed during the past five years. The largest age group, 38 percent, moved into the 60-70-year-old range from the 50-60-year-old range, which now accounts for 25 percent of boat writers.

Members under the age of 50 total 19 percent; the over-70 crowd grew to 15 percent from 9 percent.

Annual income generally shifted downward, reflected in 29 percent of the writers reporting less than $10,000, the largest category, followed by 9 percent making between $20,000 and $30,000 (down from 13 percent). Three other income categories increased, led by $60,000 to $70,000 rising to 8 percent from 6 percent.

Close to half of respondents, 46 percent, maintain their own websites, a third are active with blogs and forums and 18 percent are posting videos online. About 70 percent are on Facebook, 67 percent are on LinkedIn, 40 percent are on Google and 25 percent are on Twitter.

Magazines continue to be the primary clients for the writers, noted by 79 percent of respondents in 2014 and 83 percent in 2009. Blogging and website development work increased to 40 percent from 27 percent during the same period.

Other notable changes in revenue sources: Marketing/advertising work rose to 28 percent from 9 percent, videography rose to 17 percent from 10 percent and book writing rose to 21 percent from 17 percent. Revenue reported from newsletters, editing, public relations, TV and radio decreased during the period.

This year, 85 of 300 active BWI members 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 the recreational marine and boating publishing industries.