How Much Should You Pay Your New Media Staff?

By: Steve Outing

New media salaries. There’s a topic on many publishing executives’ minds. What do you pay employees in a newly created field where there’s not a lot of information to go on about what your competitors are doing? (And probably not a lot of revenue coming in to pay high salaries).

Last week, I posted a request to participants in the online-news and online-newspapers Internet mailing lists (which I administer), asking for information about pay scales for employees in newspaper new media/online departments. This is information that many people are uncomfortable sharing, but I promised confidentiality for anyone who replied, and got back about 20 replies. Certainly, the results of this modest survey are far from scientific, but I suspect that you may find them useful nevertheless.

What I found, overall, was that new media managers are earning salaries comparable to their print counterparts. At the lower staff levels of newspaper new media departments, there’s not a lot of money to go around. Those with journalism training and experience can command salaries equivalent to that received by print reporters and editors. But there are also a range of jobs involving only HTML coding and site maintenance that pay less. (It would appear there are plenty of candidates with those skills, so pay scales are correspondingly lower).

At some union papers, the new media operation is covered by the same union as the print editorial staff, so salaries are identical for online and print employees.

Let’s look at some specific cases to get an idea of what publishers are paying these days for new media/online/Internet talent. (I will not identify these newspapers.) Figures are all in U.S. dollars or have been converted to dollars, to make comparisons easier.

1) Medium-large metro daily:
This paper operates with a small new media staff, with the department head making in the $70,000 a year range and a Webmaster earning in the mid $30s.

2) Medium-large metro daily:
This newspaper operation, in a lower cost of living city, has a larger online department. The head of the department makes in the $45,000 a year range, with an assistant department head making a few thousand less. Editors’ pay ranges from $31,000 to the mid $20s, based on experience level.

3) Newspaper chain central new media operation:
This new media division has a larger staff. Senior managers earn $50,000 a year and up. Editors, who are usually senior journalists with good World Wide Web skills, receive $27,000 to $40,000. Sub-editors (less experienced journalists, or those involved in HTML coding) are paid between $22,000 and $26,000. Assistants (junior people, who may have no journalism background, involved in routine work such as working with templates), $19,000 to $21,000.

4) Medium size daily:
This paper has one individual who handles all new media operations, including audiotex (no current online operation), earning $51,000 a year.

5) Medium size daily:
Another small online operation. A producer/editor earns $30,000; a junior editor is paid just under $20,000; and an ad sales rep earns $20,000 base plus 20% commissions.

6) Medium size daily:
This paper operates with a small online staff: an online services editor earning $49,000 a year; two full-time and one part-time online producers earning $27,500.

7) Medium size daily:
This online operation runs with a full-time manager earning $44,000 a year, plus three part-time people earning $25,000 to $33,000.

8) Small daily:
A new media project manager earns in the $40,000 a year range, overseeing a full-time Webmaster who receives a salary in the low $20s.

9) Group of small papers:
These newspapers each have Web sites operated by staff members who have dual online/print responsibilities. Systems managers earn $20,000 to $33,000 a year; HTML editors, depending on their skills and backgrounds, earn from a low of $5-6 per hour to a high of $18,000-20,000 per year. Graphic artists earn about $18,000 a year.

10) Medium size weekly newspaper:
This publication’s Web operation is handled by one person, who doubles up with other print responsibilities at a salary of $37,000.

11) Small weekly:
This newspaper Web service is a one-person operation, with that individual having print responsibilities as well. $21,000 a year was allotted in the online budget to pay the salary of that individual’s time spent on new media work.

12) Medium size newspaper (outside North America):
Unfortunately, I received only one response from outside North America. This paper employs a staff of three supporting the online operation. An online editor earns $650 a month; an assistant editor about $600 a month; and freelancers earn $50 a month for limited work.

I also received some replies from online-only news companies (no print component to their services):

13) Online news operation:
This company employs several editors, who earn from $30,000 a year for the top position to $23,000 for associate editors. Their responsibilities involve classifying of news primarily, rather than originating content.

14) Online specialty news operation:
This company’s Web news operation covers a specific industry, and employs expert practitioners in the field as well as non-expert journalists. Reporters earn $25,000 to $37,000 a year, while online editors who are experts in the field receive $36,000 to $55,000. Management-level editors are paid $42,000 to $62,000 annually.

15) Online content production house
This company pays salaries ranging from $100,000 for the top executive; to $75,000 for the top editor; $60,000 for an executive producer; $27,500 to $35,000 for producer positions and about $5,000 less than that for associate producers.

Obviously, this is an informal survey, not to be taken too seriously. I did not hear from some of the largest newspapers, nor from any in Europe, Asia, Australia, Latin America, etc. Still, it’s interesting information, and I want to thank those who responded to my query for responding. Many publishers are loathe to release salary figures, so thanks to those who did for providing a service to the rest of the interactive publishing business.

So, how does your salary compare?

PrivNet responds

James Howard, CEO of PrivNet, author of the ad-filtering software Internet Fast Forward, had a few extra points and clarifications about his product, which I wrote about last week:

“1) Filter databases are currently updateable automatically by the client software via the network, by either a manual selection of the ‘update database’ button or by selection of a time interval. (Every day, every three days, etc.)

“2) The ‘Ads Bounty’ program has been discontinued, due to our development of more sophisticated and reliable means of cataloging advertisements. And yes, in the early days, we had our share of practical jokers who submitted non-advertisements.

“3) IFF has many features that appeal to users who don’t wish to block advertisements. It can also filter cookies, blinking text, animated GIFs, Java animations, and any particular image a user doesn’t want to see. In addition, it adds functionality to the ‘Net Search’ button by allowing the user to quickly view all the major search engines, totally bypassing the Netscape ‘Net Search’ page.”

By the way, you can still join an online conversation about ad filtering software on Editor & Publisher Interactive’s new NetThread discussion area. Check it out.

Contact: James Howard, james@privnet.com

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at outings@netcom.com

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