What difference do population trends make to your editing business?

By Denyse O’Leary 

demographicsUniversity of Toronto demographer David Foot argues, “Demographics can explain two-thirds of everything.” Exaggerated? Maybe, but demographics can shed light on growth or decline areas for editorial services.

The key demographic fact is that a certain number of children are born each year and no one can go back and change that number. Most of them will probably grow up in Canada. Some new Canadians will arrive with children and some families will leave, but these changes won’t greatly alter the picture.

In general, the declining birth rate has reduced the number of children entering school. Over 5.11 million students were enrolled in public schools in the academic year 2007–08, a 4.5 per cent decrease from 2001–02. This continued a downward trend which has seen declines every year since 2002–03. The trend should be kept in mind if you find children’s media a sluggish market. Maybe you are not making a mistake in marketing, but rather experiencing the results of a trend. On the other hand, the total number of educators (full-time equivalent) steadily increased. Statistics Canada says that in 2007–08, there were just under 333,000 educators, up 1.1 per cent from 2006–07 and up 5.2 per cent from 2001–02. So more teacher training materials may be needed anyway.

One outcome is that the Canadian population is aging. In 2011, the median age in Canada was 39.9 years, meaning that half of the population was older than that and half was younger. In 1971, the median age was only 26.2 years. Thus—just for example—if you edit for sports media, you may see a shift in client focus from downhill skiing to cross-country skiing. Again, it’s not you, it’s the market.

Seniors will likely make up the fastest-growing age group for the next several decades, in part due to an increase in life expectancy and the aging of the baby boom generation. In 2011, approximately 5 million Canadians were 65 or older, and over 10 million will be seniors by 2036. So, barring an unforeseen catastrophe, we will be seeking clients in an aging, not a “youthening” population.

One growth area is likely to be adult education. The Council of Ministers of Education Canada’s 2003 International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey shows that almost half of the adult population in Canada (aged 16 to 65, not including full-time students) was enrolled in organized forms of adult education and training, including programs, courses, workshops, seminars, and other organized educational offerings at some time during the year of their study. So it might be wise to investigate instructional media needs in adult education markets.

A promising related area is self-publishing. New technologies have made self-publishing viable, and adult education and recreation have helped to increase demand. For example, suppose your local adult education venue is sponsoring a course on the 100-mile diet as part of an ecology and health initiative. The instructor’s knowledge and skill in helping adult learners master this area will usually not translate into the ability to produce a professional-looking manual for the course. That is where your expertise as an editor comes in.

Increasing numbers of such self-published authors see editorial assistance as worth paying for. This is especially true if their book is part of a planned move into a second career, in which case it must look as professional as the materials associated with their first career.

So, whether or not demographics is two-thirds of everything, the free materials that originate in Statistics Canada’s census, often summarized at The Daily, are a valuable resource for positioning or repositioning your business.

Denyse O’Leary is an Ottawa-based editor, author, and blogger.

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