Recruiting publishers: the new skills media businesses need

MTA media headhuntersDuring the course of the last few weeks I’ve had many conversations with senior figures across the media sector about how publishing companies are changing. The majority of these conversations have been wide-raging, they have examined print-to-digital transitions, and the recruitment challenges produced by those adjustments.

One conversation with a magazine company stands out, and does so because of a single thing I was told:

“I’m not particularly interested in recruiting publishers any more,” said the senior executive. “I want commercial heads with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Before any publishers fall into a dark funk, it’s not a sign that your job is about to disappear; it’s simply a reflection of changing times in the magazine business.

Despite multiple attempts over the years to do away with this layer of management it has always proved difficult, if not impossible. Why? Because there’s always likely to be a demand for someone to run a single brand or stable of brands.

It’s the nature of those brands that’s changing – and these changes are so rapid that media owners are now looking for different skills. If you think how print launches are likely to be few and far between over the next handful of years, you get an idea of why that change has come about.

So who are the people best equipped to take on these new challenges? Well, the people with the necessary skill sets are as likely to be working in start-ups, tech giants, or retailers as they are in media companies.

If you’re a publisher – or currently working outside the magazine sector – it’s a question emphasising the right things on your CV to show executives the qualities you have for these new roles. And there are a lot of things to bear in mind:

– How is your product launch experience?

– Can you point to a track record of launching multiple brand extensions?

– Not just events, and websites, but apps and e-commerce offerings?

– Do you understand how to build compelling content propositions around each of these?

– Are you able to show you understand the challenges thrown up by decisions that are increasingly data-driven?

– Do you have the vision not to be solely reliant on the data?

– And most importantly, how in touch are you with your market? How much time do you spend talking to, or otherwise getting to understand your customers?

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, these are the things that will help you stand out.