As anyone who has ever uttered the phrase 'cost-per-thousand' will know, filthy lucre is the oil that slicks the media engine. But, lately, money seems to be playing a rather more debilitating role in the media business.
I've met with quite a few media chiefs recently who are bored, demotivated and frustrated by their work, and who feel trapped in jobs they no longer relish by the size of their pay packets.
Now I admit my observations are based solely on a round of recent conversations over breakfast, lunch and dinner with some of media's leading exponents.
Hardly scientific, and you could possibly blame winter blues, but nevertheless a clear picture has emerged. There are some very senior people running big media companies for whom the pernicious pull of the share option and the earn-out have proved more ball and chain than motivating incentive.
Of course it isn't an issue peculiar to this industry, but it is an issue the full impact of which is now being felt as the media business consolidates on global lines.
The round of sell-offs in recent years and the spate of parent-company mergers seem to have fostered a generation of media chiefs who no longer appear to take much pleasure in their jobs, but are too financially hooked-in to flex the entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit that got them where they are in the first place.
The whole point of such incentives and rewards is to ensure people keep doing what they're good at. But that only works if there are other motivators, such as job satisfaction and a sense of achievement. Both of these factors seem to have been curbed by some of the structural changes within the industry.
The frustrations of dealing with new parent companies who don't get the media game, or of treading water till share schemes reach fruition, or of seeing unique cultures eroded by international mergers, have created a generation of fortysomething media top dogs who would probably rather move on to something more challenging, but can't afford to turn their backs on the potential millions.
Of course, it's a nice problem to have ... sort of. But it is also creating something of a time-bomb for the business. Because there seems little doubt that once those share options reach fruition or the earn-out comes to an end, many of the industry's most seasoned talent will bugger off with a bulging wallet and a list of frustrated ambitions to pursue. Sure, if you love your work you might keep doing it even when you don't need the pay cheque. But it seems to me that quite a lot of people out there don't really love their jobs any more, not like they used to - mostly because the very nature of selling out or being caught up in a merger has changed forever the media industry they grew up in.