SALARY SURVEY 2000: MAKING A MILLION IN MEDIA - There’s no need to envy the City boys their wealth. Ben Moore and Jonah Bloom reveal the media route to riches

You must have heard the wages whinge. It normally starts in the pub at about three pints past work, and it runs along these lines: ’I could have been a stockbroker you know. I’d be earning seven times what I’m on now. My mate in the City just received a bonus so big ...’

You must have heard the wages whinge. It normally starts in the pub

at about three pints past work, and it runs along these lines: ’I could

have been a stockbroker you know. I’d be earning seven times what I’m on

now. My mate in the City just received a bonus so big ...’

Apologies to those of you who enjoy all this moaning, groaning and

fantasising, but what a load of bollocks. If these people are so sure

they can make a mint in some other industry then why are they propping

up the bar in your favourite media hostelry. Sure, there are lots of

bulging wallets in the Square Mile but there’s plenty of money to be

made in media too - you just have to be prepared to graft to get it.

Two routes to the top

You’ll find a selection of seriously wealthy individuals in any given

sector of the media. Some have built their own empires, others have

simply worked their way to the top. The consolidation of media companies

into megalithic entities such as Time Warner, Pearson and News

Corporation makes the latter route a more popular choice for today’s

fortune hunters - although it doesn’t offer the thrills and spills of

building your own empire.

Christine Walker, who has built her own empire in the form of media

agency Walker Media, takes up the theme. ’Of course it is possible for

today’s media sales executives and buyers to make it big,’ she states.

’They can build a career and make it to the top in a large agency or at

a large media owner, or they can do their own thing. However, it’s some

time since somebody did what I did. The big are getting bigger and

stronger and it is more difficult to stand alone.’

Richard Britton set up Jones Britton Breckon Company with two partners

last year. He says: ’There are definitely two routes to making money.

Start at the bottom and do the corporate thing, or do your own thing.

You can only do the latter after gaining experience at an established

company. Going it alone can be more lucrative but it’s harder.’

The corporate ladder

People who spring to mind when we think of serious money - magazine

magnates Felix Dennis or Michael Heseltine, for example - tend to be

ones who have struck out on their own. However, getting to the top of

the corporate machine is no mean feat and not necessarily any less

lucrative - think of WPP chief Martin Sorrell with his pounds 1.3

million take-home and his 13.3 million shares.

David Kerr, chairman of regional newspaper sales house Clacksons, may

not be in the Sorrell league but is a shining example of the benefits of

sticking with one company and slogging it out. ’I joined Clacksons as

the tea boy in 1963 and now I own the company,’ Kerr declares


’I am the classic 35-year overnight success story. Plenty of people in

regional papers have stuck to their task and made their millions.’

And if there are a good number of millionaires in the regional press,

just think of all those national newspaper success stories. Stephen

Miron, commercial director at The Independent, is one of the youngest

sales chiefs in the nationals and he knows his peers are raking it in. ’

You can make big money in media. You only have to look at the people

running the sales side of national newspapers to realise the

opportunities are there. Newspaper bonuses are legendary. Agency staff

are being drawn into newspaper sales by the opportunities on offer.’

The big money is not beyond the reach of young sales executives - our

survey revealed plenty of mid- to senior media sales pros are earning

six-figure sums.

Climbing the ladder

What do you need to get to these top positions? Miron and Kerr put their

success in climbing the ranks down to a hunger for responsibility.

’I started as a sales executive at TV Times,’ says Miron. ’But moved on

by gaining product knowledge and always asking for more responsibility.’

Kerr concurs: ’I always say ’I can do that’. When I first started I

volunteered to do more work and I was given more to do. Show you can do

the boss’s job and you will become the boss.’

Millionaire Mike Potter, the chairman and founder of Redwood Publishing,

comments: ’Anyone looking to climb the ladder will need phenomenal

determination. You will be faced with downturns but successful people

always recover from disappointment.’

Alan MacFarlane, managing editor of TMB Weekly, is a long-time observer

of the big earners in media. He says: ’If you’re good enough there will

always be opportunities for rapid advancement in sales. You can advance

faster than in other business environments. However, you have to be good

and know you’re good because the pressures are great and you will be

found out fast.’

Going it alone

Macfarlane reckons those who set up their own businesses earn the

biggest bucks. ’You can rise to the top of a company and take home a

very sizeable salary plus share options,’ he says. ’But if you want to

be a multi-millionaire, your best bet is to go it alone.’ Walker agrees:

’I’m not exactly poor.

There are terrific financial rewards for successful people. The real

money comes from creating something. You can make millions if you are

prepared to take a chance.’

Felix Dennis is one of the best-known self-made media millionaires. He

built his empire around computer magazines but has developed his company

into a broad-based global consumer publisher. Estimates put his personal

wealth at around pounds 300 million and the stories of his Rolls

Royce-purchasing antics and grand holiday homes are manifold.

He is damning about the wage whingers. ’There’s tons of money in

publishing and I am irritated by people who say they want more.’ He

thinks you’ve either got it, or you haven’t. ’You’re born with the

ability. It is not just about the ability to sell - you have to get

rounded professional experience. To set up on your own you must know

every aspect of the business because staying in one discipline excludes

your understanding of the others.’

Malcolm Denmark is chairman of Mediaforce, a pounds 40 million-turnover

regional newspaper sales house, which he set up at the age of 29. He

points out that it pays to identify a niche when you start out. ’I have

always believed it is good to be a big fish in a small pond,’ he says.

’People are often tempted by the sexiest market, but there may be more

opportunities to make your fortune in regional media and other niche


And don’t forget media is a village where everyone knows each other.

’Good interpersonal skills are crucial,’ says Miron. ’It is vital to

socialise internally and externally. You have to get to know people and

build your reputation inside and outside your own company.’ Britton

adds: ’You must build contacts and make the industry trust you - media

is not just a commodity-based business, people are still the driving


Driving ambition

There is no one type of person who succeeds in media - which is one of

the things that makes the industry so fascinating. While Miron appears

laid back and witty, Walker seems emotionally charged and


Potter seems creative, brimming with ideas and marketing strategies,

while Denmark is a figures man, always focused on the sale and the

bottom line.

But they all started out at the bottom as media traders and all share

one characteristic - drive. And that is what any would-be media

millionaire will need.

As Dennis puts it: ’You’ve got to have absolute driving ambition. You

also have to understand there are trade-offs to be made - and I don’t

just mean a few missed weekends. I employ plenty of people who are

smarter than me, but have they got the stamina?’


Richard Britton - Partner, Jones Britton Breckon

’You need to be good at selling yourself and you need to be an

all-rounder. You also have to be determined and slightly mad because you

will be indoctrinated with the ’big is beautiful’ ethos of the agencies.

You can’t have airs and graces.’

Felix Dennis - Chairman, Dennis Publishing

’You have to be a jack of all trades. If you set up on your own, you

will be exposed to all aspects of the business and that will leave you

better placed to succeed.’

Christine Walker - Chief executive, Walker Media

’There will always be opportunities for people with self belief. You

must have a broad interest in the commercial world, be opinionated about

advertising and be extremely hard working. If you are prepared to take a

chance you can make millions.’

David Kerr - Chairman, Clacksons

’Learn, learn, learn - and enjoy what you do. Be hard working and have

an inquisitive mind. Always try that bit harder - because everyone likes

a trier - but don’t be too trying.’

Mike Potter - Chairman, Redwood Publishing

’The common feature of so-called success stories like me is

determination. I also have an incredible attention to detail and a high

work rate. And successful people are always able to recover from


Stephen Miron - Commercial director, The Independent

’You need all the usual attributes like passion, drive, energy and

commitment. But you also need loyalty and humour (and to know when to

use it) and the ability to understand and interpret office politics.

Playing golf is important too.’