The BBC thinks it’s been super-quick off the mark with Attachments, its drama series centred on the crrrrazy antics of the new economy. Of course, the media industry knows better. Presumably the concept of a bunch of arrogant young people being unpleasant to each other, rubbing their noses a lot and having uncomfortable sex in public toilets took a while to percolate through to the commissioning editors at BBC2 as a good idea.
But to an extent, that’s the whole point with new media. Even the phrase itself is now old hat. For many, WAP technology is yesterday’s news. And the internet is something that happens through your telly after you’ve ordered the evening’s viewing.
New media is buzzword bingo, fantasy land. Broadband, narrowcast, Palm Pilot, iTV, Blue Tooth, 3G... the list goes on, and will be subtly different within the week. But new media was fashionable long before Attachments put its shaky cameras angles and dodgy characterisations on the case. In fact, in media recruitment terms, the first gold rush is already over.
“People are a lot more sensible about their approach to new media as a career move now. They have seen some of the horror stories in the press, and they have a more realistic attitude to the kind of remuneration they can receive. The people who thought they’d get in, hit paydirt, wait for flotation and walk away a millionaire are thinning. Mostly, the serious players are here for the long term,” says one senior new media agency figure.
In the last 18 months traditional media has been hit massively hard by the arrival of new media – and this has had a profound impact on the salary potential on both sides of the fence. As owners and agencies moved from complacency to panic and through to action at varying speeds, new media start-ups attracted a large bite of the talent from the existing gene pool.
Those who haven’t felt the call of the Wild West have taken the new media opportunities available as traditional employers quickly caught up and put their brand power behind new media divisions. And for those who are left, the skill shortage has led to wage inflation in traditional media as well.
Explaining the early lure of new media isn’t exactly rocket science. The huge number of young start-ups had a pioneering spirit, the promise of new ways of working, and of drawing up the template for an industry to come. And, of course, there was the teasing temptation of big salaries and stock options thrown into the bargain. With venture capitalists all over the market like a rash, those with the foresight and the skills could write their own cheque. Or so it was believed. And for some, that proved true.
Of course, the boo-led backlash against new media was probably inevitable. Lots of money and technical skill does not make running a business as easy as ABC.
Once someone had actually looked up the definition of a “stock option” and realised that money wouldn’t be raining down from the office sprinkler system, the scene has been hit by a serious dose of realism. But this doesn’t mean that the skilled new media professional can’t command premium fees; and it doesn’t mean the sector has a surfeit of staff.
“The migration from traditional media is calming down, mainly because as time goes by there are more candidates with previous online experience to choose from,” says Natalie Jones, new media director at recruitment specialist The Media Partnership. “A year ago, these were few and far between and had unrealistic salary expectations, which made a candidate from traditional media more attractive. “Having said that, the online industry is still looking for a lot more junior sales execs that have done their training in traditional media and have an interest in online for entry level jobs.”