Recruitment revolution

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An improved economy, increased mobility and online recruiting are changing the ways media companies find and keep great talent.
How different is the current job market in b-to-b media from the very down years of 2002 and 2003? ¶ “It’s the difference between the Empire State Building and a two-story brownstone; nothing was happening then, business was so bad,” said Ed Koller, president of Howard-Sloan-Koller, an executive search firm that generates about 60% of its business from b-to-b media recruiting. ¶ The differences in today’s bright market from that of the downturn are myriad. Jobs are being created, and many b-to-b media executives are playing musical chairs, jumping from job to job in search of a better situation. In this climate, compensation has increased, especially for sales and some Internet-oriented jobs, according to a new study released by American Business Media.

Additionally, the way that human resource directors search for candidates has changed, with more reliance being placed on both broad and niche Internet job sites. And conventional wisdom holds that these changes have placed contingency recruitment firms in greater danger than retained search firms.

The job market in b-to-b media is much more fluid, and executives and editors are moving from company to company at a greater pace than at any time since the dot-com bubble. “People were just happy to be working in 2002,” said Gary Rubin, chief publications officer at the Society for Human Resource Management.

The movement in the job market could be seen earlier this summer when International Data Group created a new position-president of IDG Communications-that it filled with an internal candidate, Bob Carrigan. He had headed IDG’s Computerworld franchise. In the wake of that move, IDG shuffled a number of other executives and hired Mike Friedenberg away from CMP Media to run its CXO Media unit.

There’s been movement on the editorial side as well. In late August, Ziff Davis Media announced that it had promoted John McCormick to suceed Tom Steinert-Threlkeld as editor in chief of Baseline. Steinert-Threlkeld joined Reed Business Information’s Multichannel News.

Elsewhere, Ascend Media recently hired Howard Roth as head of e-media and is looking to fill other executive posts. Like so many b-to-b media companies these days, Ascend is owned by private equity firms, in this case JPMorgan & Partners and Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

With their renewed confidence in b-to-b media and their willingness to invest, especially in top talent, private equity funds have upped the ante for executives. “The private equity game has changed the dynamics of b-to-b media,” Koller said. “If you look at the private equity-backed companies-Ascend, Apprise and Hanley Wood-you have this mandate to get the best talent available. Bring them in to help build the business. They get good salaries, a very good bonus and equity participation. It’s all part of the package.”

This willingness to pay at private equity-backed companies has contributed to a rise in salaries across the board, according to recruitment firm executives.

“The clout has shifted more in favor of top talent,” said Cara Erickson, a partner at Cheyenne Group. “A couple of years ago, there weren’t many jobs and the clout was with the hiring companies.”

Donna Naidich, an executive recruiter with Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment, said that while salaries are increasing, the jump has not been overwhelming, especially compared with the impact of inflation. “The [cost of] housing has increased in New York ,” she said. “It’s at least doubled in the last five years. I don’t think salaries have doubled.”

The shift in clout can be seen in a recently released salary survey conducted by ABM. Forty-five b-to-b media companies participated in the survey, which found that almost every job title commands a higher average salary this year than in 2003.

For instance, a group publisher’s compensation climbed from an average of $169,615 in 2003 to $201,565 in 2005. Similarly, a chief editor’s average salary increased in the same time frame from $91,701 to $108,899.

Circulation director, a job that has become increasingly important for b-to-b media companies as marketers demand more database information, saw a large jump in compensation. Average salary for the position increased from $89,427 to $105,529 between 2003 and 2005, according to the survey.

It’s not surprising that salaries have skyrocketed for online positions. The average salary for online sales reps, for example, jumped from $83,481 in 2003 to $114,981 in 2005, according to the ABM survey. That increase was partly a function of incentives for that position, which increased from $32,376 to $52,181 during that period. The online editor slot also showed a marked increase, leaping from $54,895 to $120,657.

“I think with b-to-b media the people who have the golden ticket understand traditional media but also understand new media like electronic publishing, licensing and all the different models of online,” Erickson said.

The Internet has also altered the ways human resources departments at b-to-b media companies search for job candidates. A study by recruiting consulting firm CareerXRoads found that more than 61% of external hires stem from two sources: employee referrals (31.7%) and the Internet (29.6%).

Of jobs that originated from Internet sources, 22.8% came from the major job boards:, CareerBuilder and HotJobs, according to CareerXRoads. Traditional want ads accounted for just 5.5% of hires.

Kathy Schneider, director of human resources and corporate communications at Highline Media, said she prefers CareerBuilder because of its strong local presence through newspapers. “CareerBuilder is in every city,” she said. “It’s the city newspaper in every city, and that’s where people in different locations are going [to look for jobs].”

In the media realm, human resource directors are using niche Web site’s job board. “I would say there’s been a huge transformation in the way people get jobs in media,” said Laurel Touby, founder and CEO of “I would say we’ve been a fundamental part of the change. We’ve become a trusted source of good talent.”

The use of the Internet in recruiting talent is challenging recruitment firms, particularly those that work on a contingency basis as opposed to retained search, according to some observers. “The Internet and expanding referral networks continue to put pressure on traditional forms of recruiting,” concluded a white paper from CareerXRoads.

But some say retained search firms are thriving in the current market. “The Internet ... has not affected our business one iota,” Koller said. “The very senior people, you have to pry them out.”

Roger Dusing, Ascend Media VP-human resources, said he needed Howard- Sloan-Koller’s help in searching for a VP of e-media. “It’s a hard job to fill, with a very specific pedigree required,” he said. “And so an agency like Howard-Sloan-Koller is exactly the kind of thing we need. Without that, we probably never would have found who we were looking for.”

Ascend eventually hired Howard Roth, who was working on his own as a consultant and had significant online experience while at CMP Media. “He really wasn’t looking for a job,” Dusing said. “That’s the biggest difference with an agency. Agencies are going to do that cold calling.”

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