Journalists, marketers and job losses…

I need to tread carefully with this post, which came from a link via @davidcushman and @ajkeen. The article in question is Journos Losing Jobs at Three Times Rate of Average Workers which looks at the number of journalists being laid off in the U.S.

To put it in context, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid losing any fulltime roles, although I’ve been part three large scale redundancies for companies. Plus as a child, my father was made redundant and was unemployed for quite a while (during one of the previous times of crisis for the British economy). But at the same time, I don’t think the current wave of media unemployment is necessarily a bad thing overall (Obviously I know how bad it can be for the individuals involved).

The reason being that this can’t have been unexpected by anyone. The media industry has been struggling for a while, and roles like writing (and I’m also referencing¬† marketing in this as it shares a lot of the same occupational traits) are always in the firing line. I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my career when I’ve thought about either my editorial or marketing roles as being secure position for life – they’re an evolving set of challenges. We’re not talking about air traffic controllers, brain surgeons or even bin men (garbage men?).

Picture by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr (CC Licence)

Picture by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr (CC Licence)

But the modern writer, journalist or marketer has a huge advantage over those other roles – a sacked air traffic controller can’t get sacked and respond by building his own airport, but it’s possible to publish online, on mobile and even in print for free in a matter of minutes. A brain surgeon isn’t likely to build his own operating theatre, but a digital marketer can easily create an online business and find people with a need for their services.

I’m not saying monetising editorial or building a marketing business are in any way easy or guaranteed to be a success. I’m simply saying that the barriers to doing your own thing in the media, whether that’s text-based, audio, visual or promotion-based, has never been easier to my knowledge, and in a time when the big companies are generally struggling, there are advantages to being small and nimble.

Free wifi by Cmicblog on Flickr

Free wifi by Cmicblog on Flickr (CC licence)

And the costs are getting increasingly small – the bare minimum is a Netbook and somewhere with free wifi. Or just ask any techy friends for any old laptops/desktops they might want to give away for a while. Can’t afford an operating system? Use Ubuntu. Can’t afford Word? Open Office. Photoshop? GIMP (not an insult, honest!). Newswires? Build your own feed of information using Google Reader and Twitter. If you want to start earning money, you can put a blog on Blogger for free (about the only hosted free service to allow adverts), or spring for a cheap hosting package from the likes of Godaddy and then go wild with WordPress. Or even publish your own book via Lulu.

And that’s just the start, but it’s perfectly possible to begin creating your personal empire with a donated or sub-¬£200 computer and some free wifi access.

I’m not saying that you’ll have a sustainable living wage a week later, but the biggest barrier to creating anything like this is time, and that’s something you’d actually have. And even if you’d rather go back into paid employment when possible, in the meantime you’ve built up digital knowledge and a digital calling card for people to find.

And just be glad you’re not a brain surgeon after all…


  1. Amen to that. It's still amazing how many hacks don't even consider this option. In 10 years when others have done it and been really successful, they'll be kicking themselves.

  2. Amen to that. It's still amazing how many hacks don't even consider this option. In 10 years when others have done it and been really successful, they'll be kicking themselves.