How Older Pros Can Transition to Digital

With the Right Training and Resources, Their Expertise Will Win Out

By Published on .

Media professionals, now hear this: It is time to walk the talk or take a walk. Forecast numbers show online ad spending more than doubling in the next three years to more than $44 billion in 2011 from just under $22 billion now.

To achieve these industry growth rates, we are going to need to grow and retool the existing ranks of media professionals. While the interactive-media work force will take in many new hires right out of college, these "digital natives" who grew up with the internet won't have the media expertise and business savvy of existing media professionals. As a result, these tenured media professionals must learn the terminology, how interactive media works, and to be comfortable with inconsistencies in digital-media and traditional-media values and currency.

Last year I wrote an article about ageism in our industry. I highlighted the fact that the interactive industry needs older professionals, for many reasons. But more important, the industry needs older professionals who bring with them years of business savvy and media experience as well exposure and understanding of the ever-changing digital-media landscape. Older media professionals will need to prove to their next employers that they can jump quickly into the digital landscape, demonstrate their digital proficiency and confidence, and become all around "digital-media mavens." What does a digital-media maven have to know? For starters, the terminology of the digital-media space and its key trends, terminology that includes page views, unique visitors, engagement, Web 2.0, rich media, social media, the Long Tail, optimization, RSS and opt-in. The digital maven also needs to understand the newer components of digital marketing. Also: what the current IAB ad unit standards are and how to apply them; the difference between CPM and CPC ad models; how digital media and traditional media work together to achieve goals; and how digital media campaigns are measured and evaluated.

Participation is key
While a great deal of media insight can be gathered by just surfing the web, it's more valuable to participate in this digital world. Today surfing the web means watching video clips and even full-length TV programs; sharing opinions and thoughts with others through blogs, photo-sharing sites and social networks; listening to podcasts or web radio stations; downloading music, games, movies and other tools; and buying things from sites such as Amazon, eBay and Craigslist. For veteran media planners, there is a wealth of information to be mined by watching how these tools and people are interacting with one another. And don't forget to observe how, when and with what devices children and young adults -- anyone under 27 -- integrate and multitask with the web.

There are dozens of sites, newsletters and blogs on the interactive-advertising industry that provide insight and commentary, along with many digital-media-based events and organizations that facilitate networking.

Most major metropolitan areas have digital-media and interactive-media associations; download a free resource list at Joining your local interactive-marketing or digital-media association is time well spent and offers valuable networking and educational opportunities.

Experienced media people represent the future of digital marketing. The transition offers new challenges, but with the right resources, it's not impossible. And agencies and publishers should invest in training their traditional-media people sell and buy digital media, because it is those professionals who will drive the projected $44 billion in online ad spending.
Leslie Laredo is president-founder of Laredo Group. She has more than 25 years' experience in the online and interactive industry.
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