SALARY SURVEY 2000: NEW MEDIA PAYDAY? The days of the fast buck may be over but the rewards in the online sector remain high. Ben Moore investigates

While the gold rush analogies have become cliched, it is almost impossible to mention new media without thinking of history's bold pioneers, heading for strange new territories in the hope of making their fortune.

While the gold rush analogies have become cliched, it is almost

impossible to mention new media without thinking of history's bold

pioneers, heading for strange new territories in the hope of making

their fortune.



As the market flooded with internet start-ups and the online operations

of traditional businesses, hundreds of media sales staff abandoned their

jobs in traditional media for the promise of dotcom riches. Of course,

the high-profile collapses of web companies - and the subsequent marking

down of most net stocks - have slowed the rush to a procession in recent

months. However, the web explosion has already had a huge impact on

traditional media sales.





Wage spiral



During the early dotcom boom, the forces of supply and demand exerted

considerable pressure on wages. A shortage of quality people pushed up

new-media salaries, causing inflationary pressures across the whole

industry as new-media outfits poached staff from the traditional

players.



The consensus among the major recruitment consultants is that new-media

salaries have been up to 20 per cent higher than those in traditional

sectors, and that is born out by the Media Business Salary Survey.



First jobber sales executives, despite being labelled high risk by

new-media employers, have landed plum roles with some of their sales

operations, and last year they could expect to earn a basic of around

pounds 25,000. That put them more than 20 per cent ahead of any first

jobbers in the print sector.



In addition, the average commission for a sales executive in new media

was pounds 8,000, almost double what was earned by the average sales

executive in business magazines.



Account managers frequently picked up in excess of pounds 40,000 basic -

several thousand more than the average ad manager on a consumer magazine

- while sponsorship managers averaged almost the same sum. Both took

home approximately pounds 10,000 in commission.





Experience at a premium



Although this could make new media sound like a bonanza for all, the

recruitment consultants point out that the key lever to obtain the

really top dollar is experience, as is the case in traditional media

sales.



A proven track record in traditional media makes you a marketable

commodity.



The speed with which start-ups grow means they do not have the time to

develop experience and contacts. Instead, they look for people who will

bring these with them.



It was the desperate need for experienced sales people in new media that

triggered the high salaries, reckons Mark Nall, sales director at

24/7.



Despite its brash, confident outward persona, Nall believes the

fledgling industry struggled with recruitment initially.



'New media didn't have the credibility to attract experienced people

because it wasn't seen as a good career move,' he says. 'The industry

has developed and it is now seen as a good place to make your mark, but

it was different at the start.'



He adds: 'Traditional business and media sales acumen is still very

important.



The bottom line is it's just another medium. If someone is experienced,

good at selling and understands brands and marketing techniques, they

will succeed in new media. The challenge is learning the technicalities

and characteristics of new-media campaigns.'



According to Anna Barez, senior sales director at Lycos, some people

have chosen to take advantage of the demand for experience by 'hopping

around, moving every six months and doubling their salaries every

time'.



Sounds like a nice life, but Barez says her company would tend to go for

'the other sort of new-media sales person.' She is referring to the type

who is willing to take a salary cut to land some share options and to

link his or her future to the company's future.





Share options



The tales of overnight millionaires who have cashed in their start-up

share options are manifold. But with the gold rush over, those share

options are no longer just for the 'grab it and run' crowd. Sales

executives no longer expect to work for six months and then retire on

the proceeds.



'It is still a major draw,' says Nall. 'People always ask what options

are on offer but expectations are now more realistic about the ability

of these to turn people into millionaires.' Nevertheless, as Barez adds:

'It is still very motivating to think you can make it in a couple of

years and not wait a lifetime.'



David Pakeman, chief executive of recruitment consultant The Lloyd

Group, thinks the share options are crucial to new-media's allure: 'The

real financial benefits are drawn from the performance-related nature of

the business. People are willing to take a risk because of the promise

of share option revenues. It puts them in control of their own destiny

to some extent.



'I know people who have become extremely wealthy in new media,' he

adds.



'Generally they have been at the original dotcoms - the US-backed

companies with seven-year histories that set up in Europe and became

successful.'



He stresses the heady days are over: 'A few will still make huge sums

but the market balances everything and a sense of realism has taken

over. The ability to get rich quick is being questioned.'





Less red tape



But it is not just the share options and the impressive salaries that

makes new media so attractive to sales people. Ann Jamieson oversees

recruitment consultancy Price Jamieson, which has placed many of the

sales people now working in the sector. She insists money is not usually

the 'determining factor.' She refers instead to the relaxed work

environment and absence of red tape.



The rule book for online sales has yet to be written, so there is

flexibility in every sense - sales people can define their role within

their organisation.



Vincent Sheppard, managing director of NewMediaHR, a recruitment and

training organisation, says: 'It is a new medium so there is a focus on

giving staff proper training. Many people crave training and the new

skills it equips them with. New media is less corporate than traditional

media and its informal nature is appealing to many.



Nall comments: 'The speed of promotion that is possible in new media is

great news for media sales people - in January 1999 we had four UK staff

at 24/7, now we have 40.'





Pressure on other media



The salaries, the share options, the dynamic work environment: it's no

wonder the traditional media sector has found itself in a dog-fight to

hire and retain staff.



New-media sales recruitment policies have put pressure on salaries in

other media. Barez says: 'New media has pushed up salaries in other

sectors.



This is bad news as far as I'm concerned. It will harm employees in the

end because some of them will become unemployable at their current

salary levels. There is also a danger that money goes into salaries and

not on training.'



But Nall looks at it another way. 'The impact on salaries is not a bad

thing. New media has been good news for the industry as a whole because

it has created jobs. This may have left gaps, but these will always be

filled and we are getting a better choice and variety of

applicants.'



He continues: 'It may have created inflationary pressures, but employers

need to be tougher. For example, we simply won't pay more than we think

someone is worth. Our rewards are high because we have to match those of

the traditional media sales companies, but we are not paying too much

for the wrong people.'



24/7 is not alone in having tried to put a ceiling on the rapidly

inflating salaries in new media. Most recruitment consultants and

new-media companies say there is a new - and distinctly healthy -

cynicism in the market.



'If someone is joining an organisation to get rich quick, then they

should think again,' says Rob Avis, sales director of TheStreet.co.uk.

'The sector is entering a period of rebalancing. After two or three

years of rapid growth, the market has started to take a hard look at

itself.'



While the sector has bowed to the effects of supply and demand in the

past, it is now a maturing medium. New recruits will be expected to join

because they are committed to the cause and not simply because they can

sense a chance to make their fortunes.



'The gold rush is definitely over,' says Nall. 'Many of the companies in

the new-media sector have matured into solid businesses, moving forward

on schedule with clear business plans.



As a result, people are becoming more selective about their employment

choice.



'This year is a time for consolidation for the industry,' he adds. 'It

is time for new media to grow up.'



And if that growing up means a levelling off of salaries, advertising

sales chiefs everywhere will be breathing a sigh of relief.





SWITCHING SECTORS



The advantages and disadvantages of moving into new media



Advantages



- Chance to make a name for yourself



- Chance to influence a company's future



- Higher salaries - in general - than in other media



- Share options



- No rule book, little red tape



- Fast growing, fast moving industry



- Good new-media companies focus on training



- Industry is full of young, like-minded people



Disadvantages



- Lack of accepted standards to sell against



- High risk of company failure



- Share options can prove meaningless



- Bad new-media companies do not offer much training



- The quick buck mentality can mean lack of planning/strategy





WINNER OR LOSER?



Name Andy McQueen



Age 35



Company TheStreet.co.uk



Job title Marketing director



Employment history Express Newspapers, Reader's Digest



Current job McQueen spent eight years at Reader's Digest, where he rose

to publisher of Moneywise. He moved into new media in November 1999,

three months before the launch of TheStreet.co.uk.



Remuneration 'My base salary is at a similar level to the one I received

in print media. The difference is I don't get a pension or company car

at TheStreet. I had share options with both positions but there is a

greater potential to make more from them in new media.'



Life in new media 'I have moved to a more exciting job and a more

rewarding work environment. Reader's Digest was a traditional, stable

and profitable company but it was difficult to make an impact there. It

was a safe job that provided a very nice life, but I got bored. I wanted

to have a direct impact on a business. There are risks involved in

joining an internet start-up but I have no regrets. A new challenge was

the most important factor because I couldn't persuade my old company to

become more involved in the internet. My expectations have been exceeded

- I didn't realise just how rewarding it would be.'





Name Mr X



Age 32



Company Withheld



Job title Joint chief executive



Employment history Started in print media. Spent the past five at

various electronic publishers, rising to managing director with

responsibility for CD-Rom sales and the internet.



Current job 'I watched my peers setting up their own companies and felt

twinges of envy. Last November I decided to set up my own business.



Everything went extremely well at first; everyone loved the project, we

had linked up with a row of partners and were looking to raise pounds 10

million. But we didn't have any money or staff. We signed up with an

investment broker and were confident we could raise the money.



However, the market decided to shut up shop on consumer propositions, so

we ran into a brick wall.' At the end of May, Mr X had to face reality

and his company ceased trading.



Life in new media 'Unless you have the right timing and sufficient cash,

it is difficult to succeed. Our desire was to build our own company.



If successful, we would have reaped the rewards. Ultimately market

sentiment halted our progress, but we were pleased with what we achieved

in the circumstances.



'You have to be realistic, philosophical and prepared for the worst.



Once you catch the bug it is hard to lose - I will definitely try again.

Next time we'll do things differently.'





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