Online experience needed

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"Online ad sales, marketing and technology talent is in short supply and is expensive." This is one of the key conclusions in a recent Outsell Inc. report, "Creating the E-Media Organization: Practical Insights," which is based on in-depth interviews with 18 CEOs and e-media executives from b-to-b magazines and business news organizations.

Co-authors Cara Erickson, managing partner of executive placement company NewCoordinates, and Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell, focused their research on medium-to-large publishers undergoing the transition from print-predominant to integrated business models, excluding companies that started out as digital publishers.

With b-to-b media companies looking to hire people with online experience whenever they replace positions or add to staff, "one executive estimated that the demand for e-talent is five times greater than supply," according to the report. Further, when it comes to sales talent, online experience is in demand at all levels. "It is widely acknowledged among [media executives interviewed] that online selling is more complicated, more consultative and just plain more work for smaller revenue than traditional print sales."

Even as more b-to-b media companies?including Ziff Davis Media and Hanley Wood?are breaking down e-media sales silos so that print-native staff can sell more integrated packages, "the buying and selling of online advertising is still a function requiring the sale of specialized online programs to specialized buyers," the report said. "Agency structures are still largely differentiated by media type; specialists from media sales need to be able to talk to specialized interactive planners and buyers," whether that online expertise is integrated within the b-to-b media brand's sales team or is separate.

At last month's American Business Media Top Management Meeting, the study formed the basis of a session titled, "Organizing and Structuring Your Work Force in the New Digital World." There, Jason Young, president of Ziff Davis' consumer and small-business group, estimated that fully integrated media buying probably won't happen at ad agencies for two to three years. "I think there's enough difference in expertise to warrant that separation," he said, adding that his sales force continues to have e-media specialists who are given financial incentives for their roles in integrated programs.

However, Anthea Stratigos, CEO of Outsell, said that media companies need to put on "an integrated face. Marketers are saying, `Don't send four or five different people to call on us.' "

Erickson, co-author of the report, added, "Of the 18 companies that responded for this report, only two claimed to have totally separate organizations to sell print and e-media. The rest claimed to have some type of hybrid structure," she said.

"CEOs and e-media heads see no end to the possible new products and services they can launch to grow audiences and revenues?but they have limited resources, making investment decisions geometrically more difficult as the slate of what can now be developed has exploded," according to the report.

One b-to-b media executive quoted anonymously in the report summed up the dilemma: "Operationally, the single biggest issue is how to build business cases in the new world. Every day there is a new hot thing. ? How can you prioritize, fund and staff all these?"

"We have lots of ideas," said another executive, also anonymous. "We're feeling bottlenecked in getting them done. ? There are only so many hands and feet."

Panelist Victoria Chu Pao, president of McGraw-Hill Co.'s Platts, a provider of energy information, explained, "It's necessary to look at how you're organized to maximize your limited resources. At Platts, we're taking a critical look at the functions that make a difference to our customers and we're focusing on them."

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