$10.4 Billion Self-Improvement Market Survives Scandals & Recession

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More Content & Services Being Delivered Online, Finds Marketdata Enterprises

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"Technology is driving the way Americans produce, find, obtain and use self-improvement content."

Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., a leading independent market research publisher since 1979, has released the 9th edition of one of its best-selling studies, a 382-page report entitled: The U.S. Market For Self-Improvement Products & Services.

This is the only publicly available study about this $9.84 billion business. The study traces the market from 2003-2016, examining these markets: Infomercials, Holistic Institutes, Self-Help Books & Audiobooks, Motivational Speakers, Websites, Seminars, Personal Coaching, Online Education, Weight Loss and Stress Management Programs.

According to Research Director, John LaRosa: “There is no shortage of demand for products and programs that cater to Americans’ desire to make more money, lose weight, improve their relationships and business skills, cope with stress, or obtain a quick dose of motivation. An elite handful of celebrities have leveraged their names to build multi-media empires consisting of: books, tapes, CDs/DVDs, seminars, workshops, websites and online “universities”, personal coaching, infomercials, and consulting. However, there is a “changing of the guard” as gurus are dying, retiring, and cutting back their road schedules.”
Major Findings:

  •      MARKET VALUE… The total U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.84 billion last year, versus $10.82 billion in 2007 — a 9.1% 4-year decline. We forecast better 6.1% average yearly gains from 2012 to 2016. The recession took a toll on most market segments, including live seminars, books, infomercials, personal coaching, commercial diet programs and stress management. However, growth was evident in audiobooks, medical diet programs and holistic institutes/training companies.
  • INFOMERCIALS… Infomercials were hit hard by the recession, as retail sales plunged 40% from 2007 to 2011. Self-Improvement programs had $898 million in retail sales last year – for only 35% of total infomercial sales. This share is expected to climb to more historical levels over the next four years.
  • SELF-IMPROVEMENT BOOKS… Last year’s overall book sales fell 2.5%. Flat is the new up. There were no self-help blockbusters last year, just a few diet books. There was a shift to e-books and audiobooks, and real estate and financial titles were not popular due to the recession. Marketdata estimates that self-improvement book sales have declined 20% since 2007, to $549 million last year. We estimate that 17% of New Age bookstore sales are related to self-improvement. The number of New Age retail stores is declining, to under 4,000.
  • AUDIOBOOKS MARKET… This is now a $2.97 billion segment. After dipping 10% in 2009, sales have rebounded strongly, 10% in 2010 and 13% in 2011. The APA says that 24+ million Americans now listen to audiobooks. Of this total, self-improvement titles account for $445 million—or about 17% of all audiobook sales. 24% of Americans now listen to audiobooks.
  • PERSONAL COACHING… also took a hit. The estimated 13,750 active coaches in the U.S. did less coaching for individuals, but corporate business held up better. Some cut fees or began to offer group sessions. This is a $707 million market in North America, and the “average’ coach in this region makes $51,418/year. The U.S. market contracted by 5.7% from 2006-2011.
  • MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKERS… Sales for the top 10 motivational speakers, plus the operations of Franklin-Covey Co., were estimated at $350 million last year, up slightly. The big names are still big. Zig Ziglar passed away, as did Stephen Covey. Scandals surfaced, as products/services endorsed by Suze Orman found critics, Robert Kiyoski declared bankruptcy, and clients died at James Ray’s AZ sweat lodge. Many speakers are aging, retiring, and are cutting back road tours. They’re creating more webinars & online courses.
  • PUBLIC SEMINARS… Marketdata, for the first time, has good sales and expenses data for the major seminar companies, available via annual tax returns filed by their parent companies. Peter Lowe’s large scale Get Motivated seminars folded, but this is still a $308 million market, and Hay House is expected to fill the void with a larger schedule.
  • HOLISTIC INSTITUTES & TRAINING COMPANIES… The 16 holistic institutes are still operating, attracting about 152,000 people/year and growing moderately. In addition, companies such as Hay House ($50-75 mill. Sales), Gaiam ($275 mill. Sales), Toastmasters (280,000 members) and Dale Carnegie (100,000 trained in the U.S.) are expected to grow through 2016.

"Just as consumers are now questioning government, religion, highly paid CEOs and large financial institutions, they are scrutinizing more self-improvement gurus. Blind faith is being replaced by a demand for practical skills, at reasonable prices. While many have been waiting for the next big thing, like a blockbuster book, the Internet and digital delivery of content has been revolutionizing the business.. Live streaming of events, webinars, and teleseminars are more prevalent and are driving down the cost of programs and services. In addition, more content than ever is flooding the market, as technology has made it possible for anyone to become an author, a coach, a producer and innovator—resulting in confusion how to differentiate between good and bad material,” according to John LaRosa.


“The U.S. Market For Self-Improvement Products & Services”, Dec. 2012, is an independently researched multi-client study, which contains 382 pages, 58 tables, 56 competitor profiles. It costs $2,495 and is also sold by chapters at lower cost. A free table of contents is available from: Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., Regents Park Drive, Suite 120, Tampa, FL 33647, (813) 907-9090. A 41 pp. Overview is available to the public for $99. John LaRosa is available for interviews.


Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., is a 33-year old independent market research and consulting firm that publishes market and industry studies covering a wide range of service and niche markets. It has tracked the self-improvement market since 1994, and is the only company tracking it on a regular basis.

Contact Information

John LaRosa, Research Director, BS, MBA
Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., Tampa, FL

Phone: 813-907-9090
Fax: 813-907-3606

email: john(at)marketdataenterprises(dot)com

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John LaRosa
Marketdata Enterprises Inc.
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