L-R: Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith, Telstra digital media director Adam Good, Mi9 CEO Mark Britt, REA Group head of media operations and strategy Jonas Jaanimagi and Network Ten chief digital officer Rebekah Horne
The media industry is in the throes of cultural upheaval and digital companies are increasingly dominated by young staff who come and go regularly – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
This was a view that emerged from a discussion panel of Interactive Advertising Bureau board members at the recent Mumbrella 360 conference.
IAB chair and Mi9 CEO Mark Britt, Network Ten chief digital officer Rebekah Horne, Telstra director of digital media Adam Good and REA Group head of media operations and strategy Jonas Jaanimagi took the stage with moderator and Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith for a “Meet the Digital Bosses” segment.
The panel flagged skills gaps and staff support as key challenges in a changing landscape.
After being stable for many years, the media industry has launched into “complete and utter, unbridled, fragmented competition,” Mr Britt said, citing an influx of new entrants as part of the reason why the number one issue now facing the industry is “capacity for change”.
Digital media is a very different style, more relentless in terms of pace, he said.
“So a lot of [the challenge] is on a cultural level, how do you support your people? If we do that, we kind of trust that people are going to train themselves,” he explained. “They evolve with the organisation as it grows.”
Rebekah Horne suggested that high turnover of staff could become a sign of a more evolved workplace.
“I’d rather have someone young, smart, hungry and motivated than have someone who has been sitting there for 150 years,” she said.
Ms Horne said digital employers needed to overcome antiquated ideas on turnover. “Apart from the fact that you don’t want to be losing great people, there’s a whole new generation of people coming through who have different sets of expectations,” she said.
Going with the flow as young people travel, network and collaborate in their own time frames can get the best people, she said, while retaining a smaller group of core staff.
“It’s not entirely a high-turnover or project-based [approach], but it’s a mentality of agility.”
In this new, unpredictable environment, Mr Britt said a common sense of purpose was more important than ever to create a united and productive team.
“There is an opportunity in the media industry to be clearer about the purpose that we serve: it’s an extraordinary important social purpose,” he said.
“Our experience is that the more charitable work that we do, the more clear we are about the innovation that we’re trying to achieve.
“Staff become incredibly resilient and highly flexible to change because they believe in the same thing we believe in.”
The last few years had seen the rapid integration of new media and old, Mr Britt said, “and in a workplace like Microsoft or Facebook, it’s very easy to create a linear digital culture of Gen Y values.”
It was much more of a challenge for many, more established organisations merging traditional with digital media, he said.
Telstra digital media director Adam Good said bosses needed to know their team personally and ensure nobody became too comfortable.
“I have parts in my diary each week of walking the floors and talking to people,” he said.
“I like to move people’s desks – people get comfortable very quickly.
“From my time in agencies, all the great ideas happened when you bumped into someone and said let’s go and have a beer and talk about this.
“So you’ve got to foster that, turn everything upside down all the time and everyone who’s feeling comfortable, you knock that around.”
Mr Britt said the shift towards “a much more humble, inclusive, bottom-up leadership style” was a defining characteristic of digital businesses.
“We have an amazing group in all of our businesses of very passionate Gen Ys, extraordinarily talented people who work incredibly hard.
“So if you can provide some meaning and context and direction and get the hell out of their way, they do an incredible job and it’s great to sit and watch them and learn.”