The self-improvement industry is an umbrella that encompasses all aspects of self-improvement -- how to build self-esteem, lose weight, get rich, meet the love of your life, become successful and be physically fit. All of this information comes in diverse media -- books, seminars, CDs, DVDs, webinars, seminars and online courses. Self-help is big business, and the industry will continue to grow.
The Self-Improvement Industry
The self-improvement industry slumped during the 2007 to 2009 recession, according to a report by Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. In 2007, the industry was valued at $10.8 billion, but by 2012, it had dropped in value to $9.1 billion. Hardest hit were infomercials, which declined by 40 percent between 2007 and 2011. Growth has returned, as the industry is expected to grow at a 6.1 percent rate through 2016. There are changes, however. The motivational speakers of the 1990s and 2000s are older – Zig Ziglar and Stephen Covey have passed away. There are more webinars and online courses and fewer face-to-face appearances.
Does Self-Improvement Work
Opinions vary on the effectiveness of self-improvement programs and media. Change is difficult to accomplish. Habits are ingrained and resilient to efforts to replace them. Environmental factors pose problems, too. Affecting change is a challenge when you are surrounded by family and friends who are accustomed to the “old” you. Consequently, many people repeat their efforts to change their lives, and the repeat business contributes to keeping the industry thriving. Whether self-improvement books and seminars accomplish any lasting good is debatable. Some say that they are temporary panaceas while others view them as reasonable substitutes for therapy.
Self-improvement books are plentiful, with audio and e-books taking a growing share of the market. According to Ron Shoop, a Random House district manager, self-help books constitute a huge market. Because most of the prominent speakers and seminar leaders write books, there is no shortage of books written by the best-known names in the industry. Marketdata Enterprises reported that self-improvement book sales dropped 20 percent between 2007 and 2011 and now account for $549 million in sales. Audio books were hit by the recession, dropping by 10 percent in 2009 alone, but sales rebounded by 10 percent in 2010 and 13 percent in 2011. Audio books accounted for $2.97 billion in 2012.
The Future of the Industry
The self-improvement industry will change, adapting to new economic realities and changing technology. Corporate participants and others are questioning the value of motivational programs that do not deliver usable skills, and they are looking for reasonable prices. Technology has made webinars and streaming video affordable and accessible to people, opening the industry to more speakers. Writing and publishing books has never been easier and more affordable. These changes contribute to the growth of the industry while holding down prices. If you have a unique self-improvement idea, now is a good time to enter the industry.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.