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
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.
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
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
A proven track record in traditional media makes you a marketable
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
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
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
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.
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
'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
'Generally they have been at the original dotcoms - the US-backed
companies with seven-year histories that set up in Europe and became
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
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
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
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
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
'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.
The advantages and disadvantages of moving into new media
- 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
- 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
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
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.'