Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why There are More Jobs in Marketing, Less Jobs In Media

Earlier this week, Ad Age reported that one in four media jobs had disappeared since 2000, which is a 15-year low for media employment. Ad Age claims that the growth in media employment is going on in marketing and there's good reason for this:
Here's the reason behind the disparity: Marketers still invest in marketing, but they have options far beyond paid media: digital initiatives, direct marketing, promotions and events, just to name a few. That creates more opportunities for consultants to help define strategies.

Having knocked around the media/new media landscape as a freelancer for the past two years, I agree with reporter Bradley Johnson's assertion--and know a little of the reason why there's all this growth in one place and decline in another. Johnson notes that even though ad and p.r. agency employment is still below their 10% and 11.5% respective growth rates in 2000, ad/marketing services have added 106,000 jobs with "marketing consulting accounted for nearly half (48,200) of those gains."

I'd hedge a good bet that a lot of those marketing consulting jobs are in the realm of internet and, more recently, in social media marketing. As Facebook continues to be front-page news, and many companies begin to or desperately desire to jump on the social media bandwagon, they are finally starting to turn to social media consultants to help them understand what's going on as much as get something started. The savvy marketing agency or p.r. agency will begin to hire social media consultants (and some have done so already) and there is lots of forming and merging of companies that leverage social media going on right now (the creation of The Conversation Group and the merger of MarketHum and Foghound into Beeline Labs as two examples I know of...)

Media, on the other hand, esp. newspapers, appear to not want to hire outside consultants. It is also, more than likely, more difficult for a newspaper or publisher to launch a social-media experiment, as some companies do.

The ethos regarding various forms of social media experimentation is to fail early and get out, thus keeping the cost of the social media campaign fairly low for the client. Unfortunatley, managing client expectation in social media campaigns has the potential to be a bigger bear than one can imagine--esp. when consultant must pussyfoot around facts of the social media space. Companies have a hard time accepting that their product or service may be completely rejected by the social media space. They are often blinded by the success stories and want what those guys got. That may not be possible with many products or services, given the people who populate the social media space--their needs, their perceived roles as "consumer advocates" or their actual positions as quality sources of information within their niches governs the ways in which they will, or won't, accept a marketing plan from a social media firm.

Some companies that might be impatient to stimulate positive "buzz" about their product might even pay for blog posts or other positive word of mouth. This flies in the face (just a bit) of the idea of all this positive buzz bubbling up from the grassroots. It's kind of like "astroturf"-- if no one's disclosing, how does one know if a happy endorsement from a particular group of bloggers for a particular product is real or if they received anything from coupons to cash payments for their endorsements. Endorsements, as in blog posts, aren't the same as carrying ads for products--although some folks believe them to be the same thing. How's kind of like saying it's fine to possibly mislead your friends about a product as long as you're getting something for it....

So, newspapers and publishing houses can't do what lots of other products and services do--launch an effort for a short period of time and learn from the failure (or pay for a post.) Rather, they have to come out of the gate with a plan that must do something to help stimulate revenue as well as create connections with their reader/customer base.

Which is an extremely difficult thing to do, esp. when there is animosity/fear towards the reader/customer which comes about thru a mis-understanding of the variety of communication customs and mores that have developed over the 10 plus years of communication across the Internet. Readers, when posting online, can easily be perceived as "those people" or "Internet people" and not readers of a newspaper. The newspaper folk fail to realize that their readers can be just as "incivil" online as someone from another city miles away(who probably isn't interested in causing trolly mischief on an out of town paper's message board...)

The other problem is that newspapers *are* the companies that *need* social media/marketing consultants. But they don't have the money to pay what the average social media marketing consultant can earn from a product or other service providing company.

Newspapers are now scrutinizing results from grant-funded experiments in "new media." Often, they are taking meticulous notes on what works (or doesn't) with hyperlocal, or crowdsourcing, or hybrid "pro/am" projects. Sometimes they hire the folks who've worked on the experiments, sometimes they buy the app or site that's been generated, other times they take the ideas, have someone in-house analyze them, then try to replicate them in-house, all with the belief that they already have the talent to do it right.

But often the newspaper's in-house talent doesn't understand the social mores of the internet any more than some of the clients of soc. media marketing firms (or the marketing firms that try to grow their own soc. media experts.)

So, perhaps Ad Age, if they wanted to understand what's going on with newspapers, should have looked at the explosion of grants going on right now for new media...

The thing is, grants pay far less for the same kinds of work, if not more, than the social media consultants can make from a company with a strong desire to do something in the social media space. In media, it's as if someone else must foot the bill, and you, the developer of the project, must do it as something of a service to the greater good of media (esp. newspapers.)

Therefore, when it comes to demonstrating job-market growth, it's easy to see how the marketing sector, esp. among marketing consultants, is showing growth, while media, esp. newspapers is showing a decline. Newspapers rely on (to quote Blanche DuBois) "the kindness of strangers" willing to give time for grant money, while corporations, which have a diversity of products and perhaps a bigger profit margin, are willing to experiment with social media. This is not to say that marketing always does the right thing--they, too, may weigh legacy marketing experience over social media experience when hiring. But they hire and pay well. Not unlike newspapers, where there is no hiring, but a lot of grants being given out.

Is it then fair to say that there's really *no* growth in newspaper job creation and lots of growth in marketing job creation? Not really, if the grant-funded projects are not factored into the equation, and the turnover/failure rate isn't factored into marketing job creation. But, then again, the grant-funded projects aren't necessarily paying as well as if they were "real" media outlet jobs, should they be considered the same as the jobs created in the marketing sector?

Something to think about....
Update Another aspect to media hiring is subcontracting, which doesn't figure into employment figures per se. So, a media company may have hired a number of different groups or contractors, but none are considered employees in the sense that Ad Age might consider them. The layoffs, however, may outpace the contract hirings, so even if measured, there may not be a significant increase in hiring.

Further reading HipMojo has an excellent post on Why Most VC-Backed, Ad-Supported Companies Are Doomed to Fail: I must say: I am baffled with how much many VCs are neither realistic nor knowledgeable with the bulk of their advertising assumptions. Not only are the assumptions off, but they seem to fail to realize the psychology and dynamics that go into play with how ad sales work. The competitive nature and subjective method to the madness is generally unaccounted for. Or, alternatively, the challenges and complexities of building sales streams are wildly underestimated.

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