Occasional insights, reactions and personal postings about media and recruiting.
LinkedIn is the 'people dashboard' for the media industry. And it was that way long before the big IPO of 2011. Recruiters and the general digital media public have known this for years. Most of my media colleagues were among the first half million users. (I was number 250,000 and change, seven + years ago). And now there are more than 120 million! So here are a few observations (and cautionary tales) from the LinkedIn trenches:
1 - Everyone's looking at everyone's profile. Recruiters do it. Our clients do it. Friends do it. Clients and recruiters and friends look at the profiles together when they're on the phone. It's like a virtual meet-up (well, not really). Anyone with a paid account can see who's looking at their profiles and when. Sometimes when interviewing with this recruiter, candidates have been known to mention that they've seen that the hiring exec in question has been browsing their profile (even before they're on the official list of candidates for consideration). It's a frenzy. It's the age of transparency in overdrive.
IMPLICATION FOR JOB SEEKERS: Keep your profile up to date. Make sure it's a good reflection of your professional self.
IMPLICATION FOR RECRUITERS AND HIRING EXECS: Manage your settings. If you are constantly data mining for candidates or checking out your competitors' executives, hurry up and change your privacy control settings so you can preserve your anonymity!
2 - If you're not on LinkedIn, you don't exist. This is a corollary that flows from the above observation. In my media recruiting world, there are really only four excuses for not being on LinkedIn: a) you're so well known and famous that you feel a listing is superfluous to your brand identity and you think you're way above the fray; b) you're very private and relatively content with your station in life and don't want to wade into the fray; (c) you have an overblown fear of unwanted emails and intrusions; or d) you just don't get it. Among these, (a) is just plain ego; (b)may raise some concerns; (c) is a lazy and uninformed excuse. But you want to avoid (d) at all costs!
CAUTIONARY TALE: I once had a very digitally-savvy client running a very digitally-driven business who wasn't on LinkedIn. Candidates for his management job were puzzled by this and asked me about it. So I asked him to please go add his profile, if only to help me with marketing the role, and happily he did it that day.
IMPLICATION FOR ALL: Get on LinkedIn if you want to 'exist' in a professional networking sense and showcase your career experience.
3 - Having a poor profile or a multiplicity of profiles may be worse than having none. True case in point: A client in an entrepreneurial digital media company was immediately dubious about an experienced candidate's viability when he couldn't find him on LinkedIn ('why isn't he there if he's really in this industry?') When it was pointed out that in fact he was there (under a variant name spelling), with 500+ contacts, said client noticed that the candidate actually had two separate profiles, one that was active and one had been left to wither with few connections. He was then dismissive that the candidate lacked social networking savvy because he hadn't known how to delete the original one. Either way, the candidate struck out.
IMPLICATION: is obvious
4- Bosses know when their employees are on a job search simply by the activity on their LinkedIn feeds. Joining more groups, frequently updating your profile, connecting to lots of new people all of a sudden (INCLUDING executive recruiters) - all very overt signs. I've had clients tell me that they know their direct reports are looking because of what they see on LinkedIn.
IMPLICATION FOR EMPLOYED JOB SEEKERS: Don't connect to your boss or your boss' boss (or quietly disconnect behind the scenes - they won't be alerted and they'll probably never know). OR just stop being so overt, and for goodness sake, don't make all those new group memberships and OpenLink badge icons visible on your profile.
IMPLICATION FOR BOSSES: Get over it. Even in an era of networking in an industry that's thirsty for talent, most people won't find their new jobs online.
At the start of this new decade, I noticed something interesting: a job seeker whose resume describes him as ‘a digital native with 16 years experience’. How could that be? A digital native with that much experience? Isn’t that an oxymoron? This made me stop to think, and took me to the realization – as both recruiter and a proud participant in early new media businesses -- that we’ve entered a new chapter.
As a media executive recruiter, I’ve often trumpeted the value and impact of ‘straddlers’, versatile executives with hands-on experience in both traditional and online media businesses. This is still a group to be cultivated and whose role in reshaping integrated media businesses will continue to play out. (After all, I am in this cohort, and had I stayed on the operating side of the media industry, I feel sure I’d still be marketable!) But the dawn of the new decade is forcing me to re-think and recalibrate.
We’ve now hit the year when a 1992 college graduate with a 2-year graduate degree has crossed the 15-year career experience threshold – enough, by most standards, to be ascending into significant strategic and general management roles. Unless he or she has been living under a tree, he is by all rights classifiable as a digital native: one whose entire adult life has been lived in the digital world. Moreover, he or she may have built a career exclusively in 'web-native' digital media, advertising, and e-commerce businesses. He or she socializes and makes contacts through online networks, knows the rules of Twitter, believes music was always downloadable, sells and trades merchandise online, watches TV on the computer, knows the definition of a non-edible cookie, user-generates content, knew the term 'avatar' before the blockbuster movie release, navigates apps seamlessly, and can be productive while exhibiting the split-screen, multi-tasking, attention deficit behavior common to the next generation consumer. Suddenly now it’s this group, which is reaching primetime in career terms, that qualifies to be the ‘adult supervision’.
Our protoypte Digital Native executive candidate left college, and forayed into the working world as the Internet industry exploded and experienced its growing pains. Consider these Internet businesses launched to glory or early demise between 1994 and 1996: Amazon, GeoCities, TheGlobe.com, The Mining Company (now About.com), Altavista.com, Hotmail, LookSmart, Pathfinder.com, Yahoo, NYTimes.com, People Magazine on AOL, ESPNet.Sportzone.com, Infoseek, and MTV.com, to name a few. It all really began, for the consumer Internet at least, in the mid-90s. Fifteen years ago.
The industry has learned a lot in the last 15 years. So, too, have those digital natives now looking to succeed the straddlers, and clearly way ahead of the slow-to-arrive Digital Immigrant population.
So much is being written about the question of what consumers will pay for content online. The latest study by BCG says that US consumers on average will pay only $3/month, the lowest of any country surveyed. Newspaper companies and journalism organizations all over the country are stymied by the question, doing studies, crunching numbers, issuing pronouncements. Well, from the consumer side it's just as schizophrenic. I'd hate to be called into a focus group on the subject. Let's see....
At our house we are avid Internet and TV news junkies, but we also subscribe (and pay) for a newspaper and 9 magazines (apart from business trade pubs). Let's break that out further: Last year at this time, we got one NYT and one WSJ delivered to the house. Then we decided, too much paper, too little time, let's streamline. We waffled about how we wanted to read the NYT, then realized that the key factor for us was behavioral: different formats were appropriate for reading in different venues. We decided to keep getting the 'paper on ink' version on the days we commute, and eliminate Saturday and Sunday, opting instead for the Times Reader on the weekend, an elegant download solution that's perfect for browsing with a cup of coffee on the kitchen counter. Times Reader comes free for paid home delivery subscribers, so that was easy.
Next, we discussed which paper we preferred for the morning commute: turns out that while we were each grabbing one paper for the train ride, we both really wanted the New York Times. On days when Mark was taking the Journal, he was buying a copy of the NYT on the newsstand at $2 per copy!That made no sense economically, if we both wanted the NY Times, we should get two copies at the home delivery price. So we let the WSJ lapse. I heard radio ads for half-price home delivery promotions, so I called the NYT 800 number, convinced them to cancel our account, re-start us as new subscribers, and give us the two-for-one 'introductory' deal. Mission accomplished, we now we get 2 New York Times home delivered weekdays for the price of one. The WSJ keeps sending cheaper and cheaper renewal offers (down to $10/month for home delivery AND the annual online subscription). Seems pathetic, it's worth more than that, but for now I'm not buying.
Now we get to the weeklies. Until a year ago we got both Time and Newsweek along with 4 other weeklies: New York Magazine, TheWeek (which only I read), The New Yorker (delivered to Mark's office to eliminate the paper pile-up at home), and TimeOutNY (delivered to our NYC apartment where it's most useful). New York has become a 'must have', I find no suitable substitute, so it's safe. But 52 copies of 6 magazines makes for 312 weekly magazines, too many dead trees for inside the house, especially if, like me, you have a hard time discarding. So we decided one newsweekly was enough; Newsweek announced a new strategy that seemed a good fit with our election-year media habits (issues-oriented, more thoughtful, less fluff, MSNBC-like) so we decided to stay on board and try it out. We get a good professional discount price, something less than $30/year, and it's worth it. Brownie points, too, for a publication that takes a stand and implements a new product and audience strategy! But six months in, we're wondering: the world's issues are daunting, we could use a LITTLE features fluff mixed in with the commentary, maybe we should resubscribe to Time again? So if we do, will we renew Newsweek? Jury's out, please don't send me a reader survey yet.
Then recently TheWeek came up for renewal and I was on the fence. The renewal offer by mail was buy two for $59. But no one else I knew wanted a copy (our 23-year-old daughter gets The Economist and Vanity Fair, she tried TheWeek but it didn't stick. Our younger daughter is still in college and only wants her People subscription). Instead I went online and the site was selling one year for $49, or $39 if you agree to auto-renew by credit card. I hate auto-renew, why commit now to next year's rate when they're so changeable, so I wasn't compelled. Then I clicked on an innocuous little link labeled 'to renew', and lo-and-behold, same annual subscription offered for $19. So I bought. (I told this story to a friend in the magazine publishing business who said I was taken; do a Google search for 'buy TheWeek', he said, and I'd have found it from a discount magazine agent for $4.99, which is what he paid). Oh well, I rationalized, a publisher deserves to make SOME profit.
Next on the radar: The New Yorker. Really, we'd be happier if it were a monthly.
What's the point of all this? I suppose my message is that the publishers' schizophrenia about pricing is mirrored in the consumer's indecision about the same. (And I haven't even addressed the role of the bloggers and online news aggregators!) It's a chicken and egg scenario, at least for the short term. We're confused about what we want and what it's worth; there's an explosion of news and information, much of it now offered free. Readers/subscribers/users - whatever we're being called - are like the patrons at an 'all you can eat' buffet, gorging on everything because we're not being forced to make trade-offs.
All the consultants in the world can do market research ad nauseam, but while we adjust, we're all going to use our own peculiar antennae to decide what to consume and what to pay for. Publishers need to get smarter about knowing their customers and serving them with the best content wrapped in the best user experience, and experimenting intelligently to find out where they fit in the new order. Eventually they'll compel us to make some hard decisions.
There may be a time when everyone in media will be expected to think and act across multiple dimensions and channels as part of their job function. But we’re still in the transition.
Many publishers are making wrenching business decisions about what they produce and when; how to price, and whether to go ‘web-first’ or find ways to maximize and cross-promote their brands in multiple media as mainstream media advertising budgets shift. Business strategies have implications for how companies are organized; how managerial and staff roles are defined; how top talent is recruited and retained. In sum, ‘what’ gets done, ‘how’, and by whom.
The media industry needs leaders who understand the lessons of the past but who are wedded to the future. In late 2007, I authored a study on E-Media Organizational Strategies with information industry analyst firm Outsell. In a research interview, one leading publishing executive told me, “I’m not platform neutral. I’m platform greedy….I compete with people who think only about digital. I think specific knowledge of digital is critical. The other challenge, though, is getting print people to rally around print. I also need people who believe that print is vibrant.”
Each role in a business organization needs to have a purpose. Well - managed organizations point people at all levels and across all functions towards the same broad set of objectives. But that doesn’t mean that the people and the roles are interchangeable. Well-run companies need leadership teams whose skills complement one another. And for the foreseeable future, as organizations build new capabilities while maintaining the best of their legacy knowledge and brand values, I believe there will be a need to have specialists who make sure that specific media products, platforms, and audiences are managed for optimal effect. Practically speaking, that means there is still likely to be a role for a Digital General Manager, and dedicated Digital Ad Sales, Marketing, and Audience Development executives in a multi-platform publishing company, just as there may need to be a set of dedicated publishers or editors in an integrated multi-product media organization. There may be a time when everyone in media understands everything, and can be expected to think and act across multiple dimensions and channels as part of their job descriptions. But we’re still in the transition.
If our tag line says, “Helping Media Organizations Get There”, that begs a fundamental question: “Get Where?”
If you’re reading this site, you don’t need to be reminded about the radical set of challenges facing the media and information industry in the age of the Internet. But where does this leave publishers and broadcasters who are competing for the time, attention, and dollars of consumers and marketers in a 24/7 connected world?
Media companies are making news, and not the good kind. The media trades are heavy with announcements of top management ousters, product revamps and shut-downs, organizational layoffs, forced furloughs and across-the board salary cuts. The current pain is partly the result of the broader recession, of course; but it’s been made more acute by the structural disruptions that were already underway in our industry.
In the frenzy to make bold decisions, how many short-term decisions will be made that unwittingly hurt media brands and organizational capabilities for the longer term?
On my wish list of talent-related issues for senior media executives to consider as they make tough organizational decisions:
Are we putting our people and financial resources against our best opportunities? Are we considering the strategic implications of the choices we’re making?
How do we maintain a structure that balances the need for generalist managers with specialists who wake up in the morning motivated to make sure their own brands, products, or platforms succeed?
How do we maintain a culture that values and grows the contributions of our best internal managers and employees, while attracting people from outside our competitive set who will challenge us with fresh perspectives?
Do we have methods of identifying and nurturing our best talent – at all levels? Do we know which of our people have the ‘stuff’ to get us where we think we need to go?
Are we considering the long-term organizational costs of losing the very people we may have worked hardest to recruit?