Media headhunters’ view: the christmas job market cheer

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

I am writing this in December, a week before Christmas. And, guess what? This week, I have ten interviews in my diary.

This time last year, our media headhunters‘ diary was empty. I was not alarmed; December is always quiet, but last year felt different. Looking at the column I wrote then, there was a sense that the Christmas job market was holding its breath: the economy was fragile, and the election was coming. Magazines and newspapers were closing, and people had spent the year making cut-backs. Even the buoyant online market was showing signs of caution.

While it would be misleading to say that the jobs market is booming for journalists, it certainly seems to be healthier this year. We are working on infinitely more briefs than we were twelve months ago. Before the Grey Cardigan gets his red pen out, this is literally true: last year at this time we had no live assignments for journalists. Now, we are working on senior roles across a range of consumer and B2B products.

Why the difference? After all, the government’s spending review hardly sent a message of confidence. Well, despite the coalition’s best efforts, media stocks have outperformed the market. Media companies are buoyed by a sense of cautious optimism amongst advertisers; and they have made most of the cuts they are going to make. They are leaner and fitter than they have been for some time.

There is also an understated confidence about the future amongst media companies at the moment. On the commercial side of our business, we are recruiting strategy directors for a number of clients. They are looking forward, not back, and they are talking about new products. Despite all the gloom and doom, in the last few months there have been new launches on business-to-business and consumer titles, and in newspapers. If the drive to “localisation” means anything, it will lead to a proliferation of ultra-local publications and internet TV channels. And online media has gone back into growth mode.

Of course, a lot of these developments are based on “efficiencies”; journalists are being asked to perform a greater number of tasks across a variety of platforms. Nonetheless, when people are willing to invest, it leads to new opportunities.

I suppose this could all be fairy-dust, disappearing with the melting snow of the Christmas season. A double-dip is still a possibility, and media will suffer with that. But, as we go into the festive season, the media world seems to be looking forward to the New Year.