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Internet & New Media Industry
Trying ardently to fulfill the promise of the Web, Internet companies—start-ups as well as online extensions of clicks-and-mortar companies—have singled out some activity to reinvent by conducting it on the Internet—distributing textbooks, software, or greeting cards; disseminating medical information, fiction, or law school classes; planning parties; or swapping vacation homes. For all of these activities, and many more, the Internet makes it possible to distribute information of all kinds and conduct a transaction at the same time, anywhere in the world, immediately.
In the process, companies are doing a stunningly wide variety of things online—selling products, producing newspaper- and magazine-style publications, providing services like travel agencies and stock brokerages, delivering search engines, recruiting employees, building brands, and developing online gaming networks, to name a few. Add to this all of the companies that underpin and service these endeavors—the online ad agencies, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and management consultancies—and you get a sense of just how broad this industry is.
In the past couple of years, Internet companies have witnessed a precipitous decline in advertising revenue. As a result, many pure-play Internet companies have gone under, and some old-economy companies decided to scale back their Web operations, leaving tens of thousands of people out of work. What happened? It turns out that many of the biggest online advertising spenders happened to be the struggling Internet companies themselves. Quick money from cash-rich dot coms willing to wantonly spend for market share and brand awareness is gone. And old-economy companies facing cost-cutting pressures in a difficult economic environment became less likely to spend for online advertising. The result: a dried-up revenue stream, and hard times for Internet companies with an advertising revenue model. Even behemoths like Yahoo! and AOL Time Warner have been hit hard.
In the new world order, Internet companies must demonstrate profitability or a clear plan for it, or risk near-term financial disaster. In other words, to make it on the Web these days, you’d better have a strong e-commerce component, or at least a viable subscription model if you’re primarily a content provider.
In the case of public Internet companies, the majority have disappointed stakeholders with lower revenues and longer than projected “paths to profitability.” As far as the remaining private start-up shops are concerned, most are very short on cash; the much-needed venture capital funding no longer flows freely. The result: Either companies fold or scale back considerably. For most pure-play Internet companies, an IPO is no longer a viable exit strategy. (As evidence, take September 2001, the first month since 1975 that not a single company went public.)
Layoffs and Closed Shops
The harsh realities of the economic decline, budget cuts, hiring freezes, and, worst of all, layoffs, have hit the Internet industry hard. Such cost-cutting actions are nothing new to corporate veterans, but have become painful lessons to the new, younger generation of dot-com workers. Often in droves, and more often without warning, tech firms are asking employees to leave in order to trim their costs. Each month the unemployment rate seems to reach a new high. Marketing and content jobs have been slashed the most. Safest are techies and salespeople, though even they can face the ax. And if a company closes its doors—as many have in recent times (716 companies closed up shop between January 2000 and November 2001)—everybody is out of a job, no matter what his or her job title.
The Bright Spots
The Internet seems to work best, from a business perspective, for companies engaged in low-overhead e-commerce—for instance, financial, software, and travel-services sites that don’t deal in storing or shipping inventory have low costs once they’ve established their technological infrastructure. For example, Expedia, a leading travel site, operates on a 70 percent profit margin. Amazon.com, on the other hand—which has to deal with procuring and shipping actual physical products—operates at a 26 percent margin.
Back in the 1990s, Web pundits hyped the ability of the Internet to bring people together on a one-to-many basis—to give Internet users a voice they didn’t have previously, and thus make the world a smaller place. It might not be doing quite that, but the promise of one-to-many connections is being fulfilled these days by the weblog phenomenon. Weblogs—“blogs,” for short—are a kind of online diary, in which the author, or “blogger,” writes regular postings about whatever interests him or her, often including hyperlinks to other Web pages containing information about the topic at hand. Now Web pundits are making the claim that blogs are going to change the face of journalism; again, we’ll have to wait and see on that claim. But there’s no doubt blogs are proliferating—and that even journalists and newspapers are getting in on the act.
How It Breaks Down
The industry is a baggy monster that resists classification. The following breakdown is not a definitive taxonomy but rather a chance for the uninitiated to make some sense of a rapidly changing landscape.
Online publications make money by selling advertising or subscriptions or both. Most of the players are losing money, and widespread profitability seems unlikely in the near future. Many players in this field are online ventures of already-established media brands. Some examples include The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, a subscription-based version of the leading business newspaper; and ESPN.com, an extension of the sports cable channel.
There are also a number of important players whose primary presence is online. A few examples are CNet, which provides news and information on the online world, and CitySearch, which is actually a cluster of publications, each devoted to life (restaurants, movies, community-service opportunities, and so on) in a given city. And hundreds of daily newspapers put all or part of their content on websites that are still exploring the differences between reporting for print and for the Web.
Vendors make money by selling goods or services. The best-known online seller of goods is Amazon.com. Mail-order companies with websites—Lands' End, for example—fall into this category. Other sellers provide services: E*TRADE and Charles Schwab act as stockbrokers, Expedia acts as a travel agent, and FreeMarkets creates customized business-to-business online auctions for large buyers of industrial parts, raw materials, and commodities.
Aggregators and Portals
Some of the busiest sites on the Web fall into this category. Search engines—which account for five of the ten busiest websites—are aggregators (so named because they offer a huge aggregation of links to other websites). Portals (also referred to as gateways or start pages) are sites that serve as home base for Web surfers. The home page of AOL, for example, is designed as an Internet portal. In a move that typifies the fluidity and opportunism of this industry, the leading search engines, such as Yahoo!, have positioned themselves as gateways, and vice versa. Other so-called freestanding search engines like the popular Google.com have opted for search performance over the glitz and glam of gateways.
All of these sites make money from banner advertising (think billboards on your computer screen) or, increasingly, through alliances with companies that pay a lot of money to be the gateway or aggregator's "preferred provider" of travel services, greeting cards, and so on.
Online communities serve as centers for people who share special interests. GeoCities is one of the largest, hosting a number of communities with interests as varied as fashion, golf, and government. Other examples of community sites include Motley Fool for small investors; BabyCenter, a site for parents; iVillage, a site for women; and PlanetOut, a site for gays and lesbians. All of these sites encourage users to sign up for free memberships by offering access to chat, newsletters, and bulletin boards; some offer members the opportunity to construct Web pages, which then reside in the community's site and serve as a draw for more members. Like many other Internet concerns, these sites used to make money from advertising and alliances, but are trying to pump up revenue streams like e-commerce and subscriptions.
Consulting and Support
This category encompasses all of the companies that have sprung up to support and provide services to the industry. The ISP (Internet Service Provider) world is still divided between large players like America Online and smaller local players, although many of the latter are being bought and consolidated into national companies. Most of the major phone companies are also competing as ISPs. Local and long distance carriers such as PacBell and AT&T provide the latest in DSL and high-speed cable Internet connections.
This segment also includes a variety of now struggling consulting firms that help develop websites, providing services including management and strategic consulting specialized for Web companies, online advertising, e-commerce development, user-interface design, and, increasingly, all of the above. Companies in this category include DiamondCluster International, Razorfish, Organic, and Sapient.
This industry is in the doldrums. All those jobs that were created by hot start-ups a few years back? Well, most of those start-ups have disappeared, and even those that haven’t have cut back on staff. The result: A tough road to hoe for job seekers. But while there’s little demand for new hires in business development, marketing, research, and operations in today’s tight job market, there is still a need for good programmers and engineers.
Journalism & Publishing Industry
Publishing is changing awfully fast for a well-established industry that began several thousand years ago, five hundred years ago, or in the 1880s, depending on whether you date it from the first use of papyrus and stone tablets, the standardization of movable type, or the invention of the Linotype machine.
Today, the journalism and publishing industries continue to produce books, newspapers, and periodicals that entertain us, educate us, and bring us the news we need to be informed citizens. Mass-market book publishing resides in a decreasing number of large corporations, some of them parts of giant worldwide entertainment conglomerates, most of them based in New York City. Each of them publishes under many imprints, the publishing world's term for brands. Academic and scholarly publishing is performed by publishing houses connected to the great universities, and many smaller ones. There is also a huge market for technical books for virtually all occupations, from bricklayers to software engineers. Technical publishers, such as Addison-Wesley, also tend to cluster in New York City, though many are found elsewhere.
Many mass-market magazines like Time, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair are published in New York City. So are many of the special-interest magazines published by outfits like Hachette Filipacchi (Woman's Day, Elle, Car and Driver, and Metropolitan Home). However, while many of the thousands of trade magazines are also published in New York, a good number are published in the centers of their respective industries; Variety is published in Hollywood, and numerous computer magazines are published in and around Silicon Valley by companies like Miller Freeman.
Daily newspaper circulation has been decreasing for about a decade, but the vestigial empires of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer are not giving in. Newspapers continue to be published in U.S. cities, though the number of cities served by two or more major papers can probably be counted on one hand.
The major difference between newspapers and periodicals on one hand and books on the other is that the former is supported by advertising. That means that their content and their production are both influenced by the interests of big advertisers, though editorial staffs wage a ceaseless war for independence from the dictates of advertising sales departments, with publishers playing arbiter. Book publishing is a little different. Sales does not mean bringing in advertisers; it means securing deals with distributors like Ingram, with huge chains like Barnes and Noble or Borders, and Web merchandisers like Amazon.com.
As circulation numbers become increasingly important in today's tight market, even the most prestigious news publications are being accused of pandering to popular taste. Breaking from the legendary editorial tradition of choosing worthwhile topics in spite of general appeal, online journals and print publications alike are deferring to the numbers in setting layout, content, and tone standards. USA Today was a pioneer in the easy-to-swallow strategy: Peppered with brightly colored photos and accessible information in graph form and sold in coinboxes designed to look like television sets, the daily newspaper achieved immediate success (and disdain) as a prototype of the TV/newspaper/comic book hybrid.
Weblogs and Journalism
The promise of one-to-many connections is being fulfilled these days by the weblog phenomenon. Weblogs—“blogs,” for short—are a kind of online diary, in which the author, or “blogger,” writes regular postings about whatever interests him or her, often including hyperlinks to other Web pages containing information about the topic at hand. Now Web pundits are making the claim that blogs are going to change the face of journalism; again, we’ll have to wait and see on that claim. But there’s no doubt blogs get the news in front of reader in a hurry, or that they are proliferating—and that even journalists and newspapers are getting in on the act.
At the same time as the Web is making it easier for unique journalistic voices to be heard, the companies at the top of the heap in the industry are getting ever-larger. In recent years, AOL swallowed Time Warner, Tribune acquired Time Mirror, Gannett acquired Central Newspapers, and McGraw-Hill acquired Tribune Education. Often this M&A activity is accompanied by a lowering of costs (read: layoffs)—so be aware that in publishing, as in most any other industry these days, there are very few jobs whose future is 100 percent secure.
How It Breaks Down
Newspapers remain the biggest segment of the publishing world, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the industry's revenue. The big players here are Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Times Mirror, Dow Jones, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Most of these also own substantial interests in broadcasting, cable, and new media. Traditional newspapers, like all traditional publications, are entering a new era: Most conventional newspapers boast online content on their own websites or those of partners. Insiders even foresee personalized news services in which customers will subscribe to writings by particular journalists.
This is a multibillion-dollar industry that expands each year, with top publishers such as AOL Time Warner (Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune), McGraw-Hill (Business Week) and the Washington Post (Newsweek) leading in the Fortune rankings. TV Guide still outstrips them all in sales, and television news programs' increasing influence on the magazine format of glitzier features suggests the possibility of more links between the two media (to the chagrin of serious readers). Niche publications focusing on health, nutrition, travel, golf, and such are a growing presence, too—they've been thriving for the past 20 years and are slated for even more impressive growth.
In the past, book publishers acted as gatekeepers, offering authors the only viable means of producing books and persuading stores to sell them. But the proliferation of the Web and the publishing alternatives it offers are challenging this staid Goliath. As technology forges ahead, this segment lags behind—reluctance to embrace new media is common among traditional publishers—and cynics allege that the death of print is approaching. But having recovered from similar catastrophes, such as the introduction of radio, television, and CD-ROM, the book publishing industry is realistically predicted to weather the storm.
In spite of the current identity crisis, this segment is a multibillion-dollar business of pulp titles and blockbusters that accounts for about a fifth of the publishing industry pie. The big players are New York's clashing titans—Bertelsmann (Random House) versus Viacom (Simon & Schuster) versus AOL Time Warner (Warner Books)—whose diversified interests put them on the path towards world domination.
This is an ever-expanding universe. A quick browse on the Web will produce a spectrum of publications, including encyclopedias, daily journals, interactive newspapers, and even novels. The rapid dissemination rate and global capabilities of this far-reaching medium exceed traditional methods and offer information that can be easily updated. Revenue is generated by advertisements, subscriptions, and e-commerce partnerships, but long-term profitability is yet to be determined. The biggest players are well-established publications that support an online presence, such as the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, and focused content-based sites like CNet.
Publishing has been marked recently by massive mergers, consolidations, decreased circulation, and lower advertising revenues. As a result, the job market is stagnant with employment expected to grow more slowly than other occupations through the year 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Publishing is still one of the bright and shining career options for humanities majors and people who love to read, think, and discuss their ideas, but it will continue to be one of the more difficult professions to break into. An internship or apprenticeship is often the best idea for recent grads—you'll gain valuable experience and make industry connections. Seasoned reporters concede that whatever one's education, on-the-job experience is where most skills are cultivated. Once you enter the field, there are myriad possibilities due to the diverse interests of corporate employers.
The diversification of the media giants has had interesting repercussions on the job market. As recently as 15 years ago, if you began life as a print reporter, you did not generally end up in television or book publishing. If you covered hard news stories, you did not moonlight in PR and other promotional copy. The mix is much more fluid now. And although a few old-school journalists decry these developments, they make your job prospects more interesting than they once would have been.
Peter Jennings. Barbara Walters. Rush Limbaugh. Oprah Winfrey. Howard Stern. What do they all have in common? Besides being extremely rich and famous, these on-air personalities all started their broadcasting careers as unknown announcers at local radio and television stations.
While such dramatic rises to superstardom attract many young hopefuls to broadcasting, there are many more professionals working behind the scenes. For every well-known newscaster or talk-show host, there's a score of people hired to create a program and keep it running. In addition to on-air announcers, broadcasting stations hire writers, program directors, and producers who manage the overall creation and delivery of station content.
What Broadcasting Is
From world news to local weather and the Top 40 countdown, broadcasting generally encompasses any audio or visual programming that is disseminated to a large number of radio or television receivers. Although that definition could be expanded to include Web-based media outlets, this career profile focuses on opportunities in radio and television news production and station management.
What You'll Do
Broadcasting is a lot like other entertainment sectors. At the end of the day, a station's success depends on its ability to entertain its audience, or satisfy its audience's hunger for information, or both.
Announcers, producers, directors, and everyone else must work together to tailor a station's programming to attract the largest possible audience, which in turn attracts advertising revenue or, in the case of nonprofit stations, public funding and support. In smaller markets, stations may also be responsible for producing ads.
Who Does Well
If you want to work in broadcasting, it helps to have a background in journalism, communications, or production, depending on the position you're after. But talent and skill alone may not be enough to succeed in broadcasting—it takes a certain amount of business smarts and determination to become the next Walter Cronkite or Ted Turner, not to mention serendipity and star quality.
In truth, the glamour jobs in broadcasting are few and far between, and the competition for entry-level jobs is fierce. Many jobs in fact are unpaid internships, and even permanent positions don't often pay very well, and require grueling hours. If it's money you're after, you might have more luck teaching in a public school.
Those with more realistic goals, however, can find creative and engaging careers in broadcasting. Not everyone in the business gets the chance to interview the president, but many more are satisfied by the opportunities to speak with local political figures, produce new programs and commercials, and get intimately involved in their communities.
Editorial and Writing
Anyone who's corrected the spelling on a memo or questioned the insight of a newspaper reporter has edited. If you've composed a letter or an e-mail, you've written. If you want to turn that editing and writing into a career, you'll need an ongoing engagement with language—and a keen desire to communicate ideas to people effectively and efficiently.
What You'll Do
Editors and writers tell stories. Business writers tell stories about companies and their management teams, organizational structures, and economic successes and failures. Feature writers tell stories about celebrities, movies, and people doing different, sometimes unusual things. Copywriters use language to convey a story about the benefits of a brand or product.
Writing almost always requires research or knowledge about a particular subject. While many writers start out as generalists, in the course of reporting or writing a story, they must become experts. An investigative story in a magazine into the causes of drug abuse, for instance, might include conversations with doctors, drug abusers, sociologists, legislators, drug-policy-reform groups and experts on organized crime, as well as research into public documents about government policy and the causes of drug abuse. The reporter then analyzes and synthesizes interviews and research, and organizes it into a story—hoping, perhaps, to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Editors often start out as writers, and in many cases their role involves substantial writing. However, their role also bridges the space between writer and publication. They help writers craft stories, make sure writers adhere to style guidelines and rules of grammar, and ensure that every article is suitable for a particular publication. In their role, they straddle management and production, managing writers and budgets, setting deadlines, scheduling what will run and when, and enforcing general editorial standards of quality.
Writing and editing careers vary widely. The subject, length, and style of what one writes or edits are variables that depend on where one works and what one has chosen to do.
Varieties of Opportunity
Editorial and writing careers span industries. Advertising agencies hire copywriters to create compelling copy that will sell readers on a brand. PR agencies use writers to create press releases, write annual reports, draft speeches, and create op-eds (opinion pieces that PR firms try to "place" in newspapers to reach target groups). Computer software and hardware companies use technical writing and editors to develop documentation and technical information on software and hardware products.
Who Does Well
Editors and writers need to have a strong command of language. You'll need to understand its rules—and when to break them. Writers and editors should be curious and resourceful, able to find information, synthesize it, and explain it. While some writing is highly persuasive, writers and editors should be able to look at a subject objectively. You will be required to interpret the facts you find, and the best approach to those facts is with an open mind.
An ability to organize language and think critically and a desire to communicate to others are critical skills. A good sense of how to tell a story is also important, as is a mastery of the form in which your work appears.
Most jobs require both writing and editing skills, though people generally start off in a role more primarily writing-based or editing-based. As a truism goes, all good editors are writers, and all good writers are editors.
Entertainment & Sports Industry
In entertainment and sports, the profits come from discretionary spending, so these industries enjoy the most success in economically stable countries where leisure dollars flow freely. Industry companies supply their audiences with large-scale sporting events, music concerts, TV situation comedies, and silver-screen masterpieces. Simply put, they're in the business of fun.
Even during economically depressed periods, this industry flourishes as an escape from hard times—for all walks of life. And standing at the pinnacle of entertainment culture are the celebrities: the movie stars and quarterbacks and rock stars and talk-show hostesses who seem to realize our dreams and thereby give us hope. This is the only industry whose product is an illusion—neither a good nor a service, and yet both at the same time.
The culture in this industry is one of anti-corporate, studied casualness. There are still uniforms—an ever-changing array of baseball caps and jackets in the music business, for example. But they're invariably less starchy, more expressive of individualism, than anything worn to work in the fields of finance or law. The people? Well, there's no people like show people, and the sports world has even more pep. This is a high-energy crowd. It's also a big-ego crowd, and working with its members can be both stimulating and frustrating.
Bottom line, though, is that even if your job does not bring you into contact with the creative members of the industry, the glamour rubs off, lending an aura of excitement to mundane tasks that would be boring in any other industry. Poring over Nielsen ratings all day doesn't sound so bad when you describe it to your dinner companions as analyzing the relative sex appeal of Jerry Springer, Oprah Winfrey, and Dan Rather.
A few enormous conglomerates dominate the entire entertainment industry, each controlling television, film, publishing, new media, and music businesses under one umbrella. Often, they own professional sports franchises as part of the package. Congress has encouraged this integration by easing restrictions on how many television stations one company can own and by passing the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which lifted an important ban on telecom companies developing new media content.
At the same time, technological developments are leading to a convergence of digital television, digital audio systems, and the Internet, so that all home entertainment may soon be distributed through a single so-called set-top box, as simply as MP3 music files are now distributed over the Internet. If you are interested in this industry, watch for unexpected potential employers such as Microsoft and Intel, companies that are expected to play major roles in the industry's development.
The War for Control of Copyrighted Entertainment Products
The fight against Napster, an online music file-swapping application, was just the beginning of the entertainment industry’s efforts to make sure it doesn’t lose profits due to new technologies that allow consumers to access entertainment products without paying for them.
In terms of online music file-sharing, the industry has now turned its sights on technologies such as those offered by KaZaa and Audiogalaxy, hoping to prevent them from allowing the sharing of copyrighted songs. In addition to citing the legal protections due to copyrighted materials and initiating legal battles with file-sharing providers, some big entertainment companies have resorted to taking over or partnering with these companies to ensure they make money from the sharing of copyrighted files: BMG, for instance, partnered with Napster, and Vivendi took over MP3. Others are banding together to provide their own online services: AOL, EMI, and Bertelsmann, for instance, formed MusicNet. And a good chunk of new music products these days come with copyright-protection software that limits users’ abilities to copy files.
In the broader fight to make money off all use of copyrighted entertainment products, the industry is now trying to make the case that all PCs and other digital products that run entertainment software should come loaded with software “keys” that will “unlock” software protections embedded in the industry’s digital products. File-sharing advocates point to the rise of the VCR market as evidence that the industry is misguided in its efforts; Despite the movie industry’s howls of protest when VCRs came on the market some 20 years ago, VCR technology ended up vastly increasing consumption of the industry’s products—and pumped up profits in the process.
A New Television Landscape
In the old days, the major networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS—ruled the television roost. Nowadays, cable channels (everything from HBO to MTV to Comedy Central) make for a much more fragmented landscape. Adding to the confusion has been the success of upstart networks like Fox, UPN, and the WB. To enhance their moneymaking ability, the major networks have adopted an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy, making all kinds of production and distribution agreements with their cable competition.
How It Breaks Down
Despite the blurring lines between sports, music, movies, cable, and publishing—and the media behemoths that preside over them all—these various forms of entertainment are distinct domains. And though at Time Warner you could conceivably enjoy a career that includes working for the Atlanta Braves, Home Box Office, Six Flags theme parks, and the Atlantic record label, most people choose one area and stick with it. These worlds are closely knit, and whom you know and whom you owe—and who owes you—counts for a great deal, particularly when you're looking for work.
In the days of celluloid movie factories, the major studios controlled the project from the earliest script draft to the opening night at Radio City. Most films were completed in under a month and cost as little as $200,000 to produce. Today there are six major entertainment companies: News Corp, AOL Time Warner, Vivendi, Sony, Viacom, and Walt Disney. Known as the Big Six, they all have their roots in the original Hollywood studios: MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, and others. But the modern studios control Hollywood in a different way now: They solicit projects, provide the financing, and make the deals with thousands of smaller production companies. The indies (independents) remain only marginally profitable—and are often owned by one of the Big Six. (Miramax, for example, is a Disney subsidiary.)
Like most movies, music is often created by committee and on the whim of the record label. But the artists retain some control. At least, some do; the Billboard charts always seem to have room for packaged products like Menudo, the Monkees, and N'Sync. The 1996 Telecommunications Act lifted restrictions on how many radio stations a company can own and the ensuing domination by conglomerates resulted in more standardized (and oft-criticized) playlists nationwide.
Beyond the Top 40, music is also big business in conjunction with the advertising industry: Whoever owns the rights to songs used in big national ad campaigns stands a good chance of making even more than the record company or the artist. Sony is currently the acknowledged leader in the business. Other top music companies are Time Warner (Atlantic), EMI (Virgin, Capitol), Vivendi (PolyGram, Universal), and Bertelsmann (Arista, RCA).
The old news in television is the emergence of cable, the decline in network viewership, and the surprising success of Fox TV, the only new network to date that has threatened the supremacy of reigning giants CBS, NBC, and ABC. The more interesting and pertinent news for job seekers is the slow but inexorable digital convergence of computer technology, the Internet, and television, and also the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allows phone companies and power utilities, among others, to create and distribute entertainment content. These developments opened the floodgates for telecommunications and technology companies to enter the competition—Pacific Telesis (NYNEX and SBC), AT&T (TCI), Intel, and Compaq have become strong players. Also building on this technology, Microsoft and other companies are melding broadband cable and electronic media to enhance Internet capabilities.
When world-class athletes cry, "Show me the money," team owners, managers, agents, and sponsors dance to the tune. The popularity of professional sports teams is phenomenal, and sky-high revenues are pulled in through a variety of avenues including advertising, sponsorships, team name and logo licensing, ticket sales, and worldwide broadcasts.
As far as professional organizations go, the National Football League (NFL) leads the pack in profits, with the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL) not far behind. Teams, once owned by individuals, are increasingly owned by companies: AOL Time Warner (publisher of Sports Illustrated) owns baseball's Atlanta Braves, basketball's Atlanta Hawks, and hockey's Atlanta Thrashers; the Tribune Company owns baseball's Chicago Cubs; Walt Disney owns hockey's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and baseball's Anaheim Angels; and News Corp., Cablevision, Comcast, The Molson Companies, and Anheuser-Busch all have teams as well.
Keep in mind that this could be the most competitive industry out there. Getting a job in sports or entertainment is a difficult undertaking that requires persistence, intense networking, and good luck. Unless your dad knows Ted Turner, don't count on landing even an entry-level slot easily. Every year, hundreds upon thousands of job seekers flood New York and Los Angeles hoping to become celebrities, and the majority of them wind up waiting tables to make ends meet And, if they decide to stay in show biz, they eventually end up taking jobs in production or administration. Take heart in the fact, though, that companies can't ignore talent. If you prove that you've got the skills to thrive in a challenging and nontraditional work environment, then you're in for a thrilling ride.
Careers in this industry usually start at the entry level; agents, personal managers, and studio executives usually got their start as lowly assistants. Once launched on their careers, people in the entertainment industry tend to change jobs frequently, and contacts in the industry are crucial.
For those of you with a business or technical background, work is more readily available. The big corporations that dominate the industry always need people in the standard management functions such as finance, HR, IT, marketing, and communications. Technicians are needed in traditional fields such as sound engineering and photography, and in the rapidly expanding fields of digital special effects: Dozens or perhaps hundreds of companies in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area employ software engineers and other specialists to create digital special effects, which are at the center of films like The Matrix, Monsters Inc., Lord of the Rings, and Spider-Man, and contribute unobtrusively to scores of other films, removing unwanted telephone cables from outdoor scenes and wrinkles from stars' faces. Leading companies in this field include Pixar, PDI, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Industrial Light and Magic.
The difficulty of getting a job in the movie biz is legendary—making a feature-length film can take years and a cast of thousands, yet you will be competing with hundreds for even the most menial short-term contracts and per diem arrangements. When you finally land a job, your initial contributions are generally limited to contracts, spreadsheets, gophering, and creating dazzling promotional copy. But over time you often actually come to know the stars and other industry bigwigs you serve, and these relationships evolve into the ever-important industry contacts that will make or break your career.
To get a job in the music industry, you'll have to follow a path almost as long and complex as that from the first stirrings of a tune in a musician's head to the final song you hear every time you turn on the radio. The important support jobs in the music industry are cover-art production, promotional video production, publishing rights, marketing and sales, and publicity—and then more publicity, and then different publicity for radio, clubs, and both the mall stores and anti-mall stores such as Tower Records and Virgin Records. If you're interested in marketing to an online audience or the challenge of developing better online audio, these are also job areas to explore. So are MP3 players and DVDs, which are growing apace and are gradually replacing CDs and videocassettes.
As the sports industry expands to include lucrative ancillary employment in marketing, promotion, sports medicine, and agency representation, your options extend well beyond one team or sport. You can earn almost as much as a good left-handed pitcher if your legal skills include licensing and contract negotiation.
Manufacturing and Production
Without manufacturing and production, there'd be no products to market or sell. Accountants wouldn't have anything to account for. The retail trade would collapse. Programmers would be without computers to program on.