Thursday, April 9, 2009
Managing Your Digital Career In A Downturn
By Dave Morgan I spend a lot of time these days talking to folks in and around the digital media industry about career choices they are facing. As a result of both the impact of the financial crisis as well as the secular declines in offline media, more media people are facing more career issues with more immediacy than probably ever before.
Like most other industries, the media industry took on too much leverage over the past 15 or 20 years, and not just financial leverage from too much debt. Many companies also leveraged up their staffs, adding more and more people with the expectation that their markets and businesses would continue to grow at double-digit rates. For many companies, it was easier to hire more people to handle the increased work rather than finding ways to increase output per person. Hiring is almost always easier than reengineering. Unfortunately, as the growth stopped and then reversed itself, most media companies have found themselves this past year with many more folks than they need, and many folks working in areas that aren't critical to their core business. Thus, lots of folks are facing career choices. Here is some of the counsel I give folks in this circumstance:
It never works that way. Some market sectors come back early. Some come back late. And some never come back. I grew up in a small mining town in western Pennsylvania. When the U.S. steel industry collapsed in the early 1970s, the town's economy did as well. We all grew up amid a constant dialogue about what life would be like when the steel industry came back. It never did, and neither did my hometown's economy.
It is critical for everyone to understand the core drivers of the markets behind their businesses, and understand how those drivers are likely to recover, or not recover. Sitting, waiting and hoping is never a good strategy.
I myself believe that once we are through this economic crisis (probably the end of next year or early 2011, we will see a very robust digital media market. However, I'm certain that it will look very different than it does today, and I believe that critical categories like exposure-priced advertising may never come back the same. Media will be a great business again, but it will be different. What do you think?
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Dave Morgan is the CEO of Simulmedia. Previously, he founded and ran both TACODA and Real Media.
Online Spin for Thursday, April 9, 2009: