So this is the brave new world?

The Internet market might be buoyant now, but what about the future?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The growing skills shortage in new media keeps cropping up in most conversations I have with media owners and agencies. That particular area seems to be suffering the most, especially in the middle ground which is producing a dying breed of commercially minded people able to talk strategy while selling across multiple platforms.

The growing skills shortage in new media keeps cropping up in most conversations I have with media owners and agencies. That particular area seems to be suffering the most, especially in the middle ground which is producing a dying breed of commercially minded people able to talk strategy while selling across multiple platforms.

The real problem here is that once someone has a number of years' experience, they become hot property and find it hard to resist the incessant calls from friendly old Mr Headhunter.

I often wonder where I would be now had I decided to go down the commercial route rather than opting for journalism, especially when I hear of salary packages for middle-ground sales staff starting at £90,000. I would have my feet up, negotiating the odd deal from my winter home in Bermuda rather than working in a grey office in grimy Croydon.

There's certainly a lot of money in the new media industry and salaries are being hiked up so companies can poach people with the right amount of experience.

This is going some way to filling more senior posts, but those towards the middle and lower levels are often left unfilled for long periods. Finding someone sharp and eager enough, not just to sell but to work with clients on sponsorship and cross-media packages, and able to fit in with a forward-thinking team is not your typical sales requirement.

Slowly, positions are being filled by people from traditional media, lured by over-inflated salaries, company equity and a job that is future-proof.

But what of the prospects? Are we really on the threshold of a brave new world? What long-term security can an Internet startup offer when 10 other players in the market offer the same thing to a finite number of customers?

Sure, the market is buoyant and exciting at present - funded on development and promise. But what happens when it begins to stabilise, Internet stocks continue their downward spiral and management turns its attention to clawing back revenues? Staff overheads will be the first thing on the economising agenda.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, but in the long term a shakeout is inevitable and attention will shift to new media redundancies. Perhaps I made the right career choice after all. At least there will always be something to write about.

The new players

While on the subject of new media content, it seems the market is about to get a major injection from new players planning to claim their stake. With Revolution having finally taken the plunge and gone weekly, harbouring plans to put daily content on its website, clearly the time is right for investment in new media news and analysis.

Attempts have been made by the likes of The Register and Silicon.com, but as yet there's not been a standalone website devoted entirely to up-to-the-minute new media content. From what I hear, all this is about to change, and by the start of the new year diehard new media news junkies should find their thirst for information quenched. Without giving too much away, one of these is the Industry Standard, that bastion of new media comment, analysis, community; you name it, they cover it - if it's new media.

A number of 'Standardees' are laying the groundwork on this side of the pond for a fully localised version of the service. And Red Herring, which has been eyeing Europe for some time, must be in a position to make its intentions clear.

Curiously, Revolution is doing the same in the US with a view to launching a US version.

Silicon's success

Silicon.com already has a small stake in the online new media content market and could do well to leverage this, particularly now that it's landed £11m in VC to expand its business and move into Europe.

Those who said it would never work a year ago when Silicon.com launched must be eating their words. The service has clearly found its niche, taking on the big boys such as Ziff-Davis and VNU and sporting a market value of £800m.

The 30-year-old CEO, Rob Lewis, has been working hard. No doubt he will now start to be included in the growing number of Internet millionaires as the "ponytailed entrepreneur that made TV for the Web".

Telewest is making moves in the opposite direction, taking the Web to TV as part of the interactive services it plans to launch on its Active Digital service early next year.

Unfortunately, none of these interactive services were included in the demonstration in Chelmsford last week at new-look Telewest's digital launch, although CEO Tony Illsley did raise a few eyebrows when he used a cable modem to download an MP3 file on to a Rio player in less than five seconds.

New Telewest is now looking as if it could actually take on a strong competitor like NTLand rebuild its brand image after the bashing it took during the CWC negotiations in the summer. With an aggressive rollout planned, and a £2m marketing campaign in the Midlands, it looks as though Telewest is going to be sprinting away from rival NTL, which will still be in the starting-blocks come the new year.

amy@wagswell.co.uk

Comments