Online siphons publishing talent

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Executive recruiter Ed Koller's company spent 25 years specializing in pairing top-level talent with high-profile publishing jobs. But Howard Sloan Koller Group began serving a new clientele about three years ago: Internet companies.

"In the last year, I've taken out at least 15 senior people who were at either the ad director or publisher level and moved them over to the Internet," said Mr. Koller, president. Compared to this time last year, the number of Web company positions the recruiter has been asked to fill has "easily doubled, if not more than doubled."

Today, nearly 50% of the New York-based recruiter's business is related to the Internet, he said.

WANTED: SEASONED MARKETERS

The young world of the Web is turning to older, seasoned talent from print media to sell sponsorships, banner ads, promotions and ad packages.

U.S. Internet ad spending, which the Internet Advertising Bureau projects to pass $3 billion by yearend, still has far to go to catch up to magazine ad spending, which was $8.1 billion just through July, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

"The number of Web sites [has] increased, so the number of requests for executives with sales and marketing experience is going to increase," Mr. Koller said.

That could prove troublesome for traditional media companies as they try to hold on to their brightest talent, even after the inevitable shakeout of weaker Web sites.

"The Internet companies recognize that the people coming from the magazine world are going to help them build revenue," said R. Scott Ford, 44, senior VP-network sales and business development for Phase2Media, New York. The online advertising network's hallways are jammed with print expatriates, including Mr. Ford, former publisher of The Atlantic Monthly, and Diane Silberstein, 43, once publisher of The New Yorker and now VP-worldwide sales.

Egreetings Network also recently picked up publishing talent: Senior VP-Advertising Sales Ken Wallace, 57, moved from VP-group publisher of Rodale Press and VP-Integrated Marketing Joe Mangione left Meredith Corp., where he was publisher-integrated marketing.

"I seek out people with deep media backgrounds," said Gordon Tucker, CEO of Egreetings. "What you find in the print publishing world is more and more pressure from advertisers for deals that include online exposure and sponsorship opportunities. So Ken and Joe were already working in this space because of advertiser demand."

THE SHORTER LEARNING CURVE

Phase2Media Chairman-CEO Richy Glassberg, a 36-year-old former executive with Turner Interactive Sales, seeks at least 10 years of sales and marketing experience.

"The learning curve of understanding the Internet is a lot shorter than the learning curve of understanding the advertising business," Mr. Glassberg said. "It isn't Internet advertising. It's just advertising. At the end of the day, I don't care if the ad is on TV or radio or in print; if we don't help the advertiser sell a product, the advertising hasn't worked."

Most people have taken pay cuts to work for Internet companies, Mr. Glassberg confirmed. "About 90% of them have done so."

Executive recruiter Mr. Koller classifies lower salarie as "hair cuts" in take-home pay. On average, print publisher and ad director salaries range from $200,000 to $250,000, he said. Online salaries are "less in real income than the publishing business, but the equity portion of the package can make it worth considerably more."

America Online is another company that has turned to seasoned professionals. Paul Corvino, VP-general manager of sales, last year left Cablevision Systems, where he was corporate director for sales. Earlier, he was managing director-advertising sales for The New York Times.

"It's easier to teach a salesperson the Internet as opposed to taking a techie person and teaching him sales," Mr. Corvino, 42, said.

Paul Atkinson, 46, who spent most of his career at The Wall Street Journal and recently left as VP-advertising to join AOL as VP-advertising sales, joins 35 other executives Mr. Corvino has recruited since July 1998.

PUBLISHING FOUNDATION

Annie Williams, 35, VP-marketing at Web and TV media company CNET, said her background as VP-marketing at The New Yorker, a job that entailed brand-building and reader assessment, prepared her well for her current position.

"[CNET] brought me on board to raise their profile, build the brand, do research to better understand our users and focus on achieving profitability," Ms. Williams said.

Familiarity with the Internet was not the issue, Ms. Williams said. "To be frank, I never used a computer before."

Even if a dot-com job doesn't work out, professionals say having new-media experience will only help their careers.

Mr. Wallace was content at Rodale when Howard Sloan approached him for Egreetings.

"I had been doing the same thing for a long time," Mr. Wallace said. "I did talk to some other friends who have jumped from print over to the Internet and all said it was like being reborn, it was so exciting."

Hart Hooton, 40, also sought excitement when he moved from Hearst Corp. to CNN/Sports Illustrated Interactive as general manager. "I am an evangelist for what we are doing, [which is] affecting people's media options," he said.

Brian Kardon, former senior VP-chief marketing officer at Cahners Business Information, now is VP-business development for HomePortfolio.com, a home-products site.

GIVING UP 'COMFORT ZONE'

"The best and the brightest are going over, at least those with enough self-confidence to take the risk," Mr. Kardon said. "They are giving up big offices, secretaries and a comfort zone. They are also willing to take a cut in pay to be instrumental in a whole new way for consumers to receive information."

Take the case of John W. Glascott, senior VP-sponsorship for iVillage, an Internet company that went public in March. Mr. Glascott, 46, is a former senior VP-director of corporate marketing for Hearst Magazines. According to Securities & Exchange Commission documents, his '98 salary was $155,906 plus a $50,000 bonus. But the options he was granted are worth about $2 million, based on the recent price of $35 a share.

People who have gone to the Internet and succeeded are "extremely unlikely" to want to go back to print, Mr. Glascott said. "Hearst has a long-term incentive plan for senior executives, but it can't touch the IPO experience."

"You don't join this business to get rich, but it's nice to know there is the potential for greater financial rewards than you've probably ever dreamed of," said Phase2Media's Mr. Ford. To combat the exodus, publishing companies have to be creative. "Magazine companies will have to develop something that can provide more long-term financial rewards," he said.

But it still may be hard for print companies to duplicate the stimulation of an Internet company; other executives said some salespeople will return to mainstream media. All agree selling online media is a profession that will not disappear.

"The bubble's not going to break," said Mr. Ford. "You get in this business and you realize how real it is."

Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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