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2009 Circulation Salary Survey

In a dismal economic environment, salaries continue to rise, but bonuses take a significant hit this year.

You don’t need us to tell you how tight budgets were this year. Cost containment was the name of the game, yet this year’s survey shows a nice incremental boost in salaries across the board. This is perhaps reflective of the continued buildup of new responsibilities we’ve been noting over the last few years. Remuneration did take a hit, however, and that was in bonuses—especially for b-to-b circulation executives.

We’re also debuting a new job title in the survey this year: Audience Development Manager/Director. While not yet widespread among the publishing community, and responsibilities vary from publisher to publisher, AD directors have emerged as the new point position for cross-platform audience management and are certainly worthy participants in our salary surveys going forward.

Circulation Director or Top Circulation Executive
Top circulation executives saw their mean salaries increase across the board this year. This news is particularly good for consumer circ directors whose salaries dipped in both 2007 and 2008, but have now bounced back by a whopping $17,900—more than making up the difference.

The boost in salaries for circulation directors couldn’t come at a better time. In verbatim responses, many said the trend of additional responsibilities continues unabated. One respondent felt the impact of staff cutbacks, reporting, “As positions have been eliminated, I’ve taken back a majority of the nonmanagement tasks previously delegated to employees.” This was a sentiment echoed by other circ director respondents.

The gender gap tightened a bit this year after widening last year, but still sits at an unacceptable level. Males reported $97,000 and females reported $82,700—a difference of $14,300 versus last year’s difference of $18,800.

Working in the New York City area still commands a much higher salary—$129,000 versus $75,000 for those working elsewhere. Likewise, the Northeast pays $27,300 more than closest competing region, the Midwest.

While circ director mean salary spiked significantly in this year’s survey versus last year—$109,100 versus $91,200 in 2008—perhaps not surprisingly, additional cash payouts dropped precipitously. Consumer circ directors plunged from $22,600 in additional 2008 cash to $12,900 in 2009. B-to-b declined also, from $19,500 in 2008 to $13,000 in 2009.

Circulation Manager

Manager-level circulators also benefited from a spike in mean salary this year, but not nearly as much as their circulation director supervisors. Consumer circ manager salaries increased by $5,900, b-to-b by $1,600 and association circ managers failed to generate enough measurable responses. This is after reporting a salary drop in 2008. So, like their director colleagues, managers get a bit of a salary reprieve in 2009.

Yet, also like their supervisors, managers lost much of their additional bonus payouts. B-to-b managers dropped from $12,900 in 2008 to a mere $800 in 2009. Consumer managers actually squeaked out a $1,400 boost to $5,400 in 2009.

The work environment continues to be challenging. In response to the survey questionnaire in that regard, one circulation manager cited “changing consumer spending habit[s] in this economy,” and added, “publications evolving from print to Web-based publications with paid subscriptions.”

Another pointed to a difficult retailer market as a top challenge: “Retailers cutting mainline space and number of titles.”

In the meantime, men still make more than women (males: $60,200, females: $50,200) and the Northeast still commands the top salaries—$66,800 versus $49,600 in the South, the next highest.

Beyond b-to-b or consumer, the kind of publication worked on does indeed impact salary. While there were too few responses to warrant an entry for the “controlled only” category, and circulation managers working on paid-only make approximately $46,100, those who work on both paid and controlled earn a substantially higher $57,600.

Audience Development Manager/Director

New to the survey this year is the Audience Development Manager/Director title. Frankly, any survey tracking salaries in the circulation discipline would be incomplete these days without information on a position that has emerged as the go-to person for cross-platform audience growth and management.

The AD manager/director’s salary, in the b-to-b and consumer markets, sits directly between the circulation manager and circulation director levels. In the consumer market, AD manager/directors make a mean salary of $88,700. In the b-to-b market, the position takes home a decidedly lower $69,800. Association publisher responses were too few to record a meaningful salary level.

Verbatim responses offer some insight into the responsibilities of this position. Respondents reported tasks in the areas of using social networking to drive circulation, Web site development, SEO and SEM tactics and Web traffic and analytics. One respondent noted “new online product development and create additional revenue streams” as a freshly-added responsibility. Email marketing, corporate database initiatives and maintenance were other responsibilities.

Males still out-earn females $92,100 to $69,300—a difference of $22,800, the highest spread among the three titles profiled here.

The survey sample of 1,000 was selected in systematic fashion by Red 7 Media and Readex Research from Audience Development’s domestic circulation from those classified with the following job titles: Audience Development Director/Manager; Consumer Marketing VP/Director; Consumer Marketing Manager; Interactive/Online Audience Development Director/Manager; and Interactive/Online Marketing Director/Manager. The sample for the survey represented 3,268 recipients at the time of sample selection. Data was collected via mail survey from August 11 to September 23, 2009. The survey was closed for tabulation with 298 usable responses—a 30 percent response rate. As with any research, the results should be interpreted with the potential of non-response bias in mind. It is unknown how those who responded to the survey may be different from those who did not respond. To ensure representation of the audience of interest, results have been filtered to include only the 241 respondents who indicated they work full time and their job functions are best described as audience development director; audience development manager; circulation director or top circulation executive; circulation manager; interactive/online marketing director; interactive/online marketing manager. The margin of error for percentages based on 241 usable responses is +/- 6.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. 

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