Media headhunters hope 2012 will bring good cheer to the jobs market

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

It is the end of the year – and I would love to be able to give some seasonal good cheer about the jobs market. I rang Allan Cross at Media Networks to see if he could sprinkle a little fairy dust. But, like me, he is cautious.

While 2011 “started with more optimism than recent years,” he says, “it now feels like clients are holding back.” He points to the closure of titles including The Publican, Community Care and Pensions Management to illustrate. To these B2B titles can be added consumer magazines – She, CosmoBride, Sky  and others – and newspapers, mainly regional but including News of the World. While there is natural turnover on all titles, both Allan and I have felt that clients are holding their breath and recruiting replacements reluctantly. Media headhunters are on standby.

By and large, advertising is still moving online, and there is some potential growth here. But the same concerns that haunt other publishers will also affect decision-making. Nonetheless, looking through job boards, there are far more opportunities online than in print.

Allan also bears out the point that I have been making in these columns recently; that clients are moving towards subscription-based information services, and these often require analytical rather than traditional journalistic skills. When times are tough, people will pay a premium for useful information that they need to do their jobs. For candidates with the right skills, there are plenty of potential employers.

The two other sectors that give reason for hope – again, as discussed in previous columns – are contract publishing and communications / PR roles. These are, of course, related: corporations are realising that to be effective in the modern world, they have to compete on the media stage. They are building websites, developing communication strategies, and are continuing to reach out to consumers through magazines.

Carolyn Tree – whose business, Treehouse, specialises in contract publishing – is optimistic. While she too feels that clients are “holding their breath”, she says that there are “significant new contracts coming in” and these will make room for “fresh blood”. As with other sectors, though, her clients are looking for “flexible” journalists who are experienced in print and online, and who can “make a podcast if required”.

Image of newspapers

Image of newspapers courtesy of Birdfarm (Flickr)

As seems to be the case in recent Decembers, there is a feeling that things could just improve in the New Year – so relax, have a nice Christmas. And brush up on those new media skills.