The coronavirus pandemic, which started in late 2019, has affected numerous industries, for good or bad, around the world. The Internet content industry was among the few industries that experienced some growth during the pandemic in 2020. The research group IBISWorld estimated that the Internet publishing and broadcasting industry in the U.S. would have 10.3 percent growth in revenue in 2020 alone, and that industry enterprises were expected to grow by nearly 9 percent also in 2020. Business lockdowns and remote work and learning increased the demand for access to the Internet and Internet-connected devices. The distribution of the vaccine for the virus had accelerated in 2021, but many people will continue teleworking and other remote activities that require Internet content. The U.S. publishing and broadcasting industry will have steady growth in revenue through 2025, due to an increase in the number of Internet connections, an increase in the time that people spend on the Internet, and migration of advertising dollars over to the Internet.
Employment in the Internet content industry will continue to grow in the next decade. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) predicts that Internet publishing and broadcasting will grow at a compound annual rate of 2.5 percent between 2018 and 2028, creating in 85,700 new jobs as these services replace traditional media like newspapers and TV newscasts.
Companies are finding that over-the-top (OTT) services are becoming the vehicle of choice for media consumers. OTT services deliver content via the internet and have no need for cable or satellite subscriptions. In November 2019, Disney+ and Apple TV+ were two new OTT services that appeared on the market. In its Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023, PwC forecast that the global OTT video market would double in size between 2019 and 2023, reaching $72.8 billion.
The growing popularity of mobile devices will create strong demand for Internet content. By mid-2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 96 percent of Americans owned a cell phone and 81 percent owned a smartphone (up from 35 percent in 2011). As more people access the Internet, demand for content will increase. Additionally, demand for mobile apps continues to be very strong. According to Statista, in 2019 more than 204 billion mobile apps were downloaded worldwide, up from about 141 billion in 2016, generating revenue of $462 billion. The researcher indicated that, during the fourth quarter of 2019, the Google Play Store offered 257 million different mobile apps, while the Apple App Store had 1.8 million and the Windows Store offered 669,000.
Digital music continues to grow in popularity. As the 2020s began, more people were streaming music instead of downloading it. PwC's report revealed that revenue from recorded music would surpass the live music category for the very first time in 2019. Additionally, podcast advertising was expected to exceed $1 billion that year. Compared to $56.74 billion in 2019, digital music revenues were projected to total $65.17 billion by 2023.
Online gaming will also enjoy good growth for the following reasons: the number of broadband users is rising, microtransaction technology (enabling financial transactions online involving small amounts of money) is making it easier for users to play casual games and social-network games, and smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the most popular method of play for casual game players because of their portability and intuitive-touch interface features.
The employment outlook in the Internet content industry varies by job title. Employment for business owners and managers at fast-growing Internet content providers should be strong in coming years. Job opportunities for technical workers such as software engineers, software designers, Internet security specialists, and e-commerce specialists will grow steadily as emerging technology creates demand for technical experts. Top-tier content producers, such as popular bloggers, musicians, game designers, and columnists, will be in demand because of their name recognition, which drives both traffic and subscription and advertising revenue. There will be many opportunities for entry-level writers, editors, photographers, and videographers, but the low pay offered by many content providers—especially content farms—and the lack of job security will create considerable turnover as many leave the industry for more lucrative and stable jobs in other fields.
The DOL classifies the Internet content industry under the general heading, “Other Information Services.” In November 2019, it reports that the average salary for all workers in this sector was $91,582—which is much higher than the national average for all careers. It’s important to note that freelancers (writers, editors, photographers, and videographers)—especially those employed by content farms—typically earn much lower salaries than staff employees.
Workers who will be most successful in the Internet content industry will have industry experience, advanced education, and strong technical or creative skills. They should also be willing to continue to learn throughout their careers.