Due to the rapidly evolving media sphere, audiences are no longer looking for stock standard, run-of-the-mill media professionals. Due to this persistent need for something new, it is becoming difficult to attain a thriving career in this industry. Nonetheless, having a successful career in journalism, media and communication (JMC) is still achievable yet there are various key attributes that future and aspiring JMC professionals should possess. Creating an authentic personal brand, targeting a niche demographic and advocating change are all key ‘secrets’ to success demonstrated by figures such as Anna Wintour, Molly Meldrum and Anthony Fantano that are extremely valuable when first entering and building a career media.
In the vast and fast-paced media landscape, it can be easy to ‘copy’ the style of a successful media practitioner instead of creating a unique persona. Journalism professor Alfred Hermida recognises that “in the journalism of today, the personal brand is becoming increasingly central to the prospects of a young person starting out on a life of reporting” (Hermida, 2009). Creating an original personal brand is the key to becoming a prominent person in the media, rather than a part of a larger organisation. Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue and the so-called ‘most influential woman in fashion’s’ brand of bob haircut and Chanel suit make her instantly identifiable both within the context of her magazine, and also the wider sphere, making her more than just another piece of the Vogue puzzle. Having a recognisable personal brand is also essential when innovating in media. Creating a façade and trying to impress all audiences constantly doesn’t create the professional authenticity which made Molly Meldrum a central figure in the Australian music world. Molly Meldrum was able to boost the popularity of Countdown due to his ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, famous cowboy hat and unpolished charm. Since he is easily recognisable and memorable, Meldrum’s innovation – “a term often used to broadly encompass anything new” (Holt 2016) – was successful.
Daniel Bliley, of the parking app Passport, states “you have to position yourself in unique ways in order to stand out from others… Everyone has that degree, but do they have a distinct personality? A unique personal and professional history that immediately stands out? Suddenly, you’re looking a lot better than a lot of people” (Saltzman 2015). In today’s constantly changing media landscape, personal branding is still relevant, maintained through the use of social media and online ‘voice’. Where the citizen journalist and YouTuber reign supreme, many media professionals blend and fade into the online world. Establishing a unique style of online communication as part of a personal brand helps to attract a niche and have people personally identify or connect in significant and loyal ways. Anthony Fantano, of music vlog The Needle Drop, is one such example. With nearly 650 000 subscribers on YouTube, Fantano is an internet success story, and through his unique editing, ‘voice’, and style of communication, he has been able to become a prominent figure in the landscape of entertainment journalism despite the rapid expansion of social media. Through an investigation of prominent media professionals, it is evident that the establishment and use of their own unique personal brand is a key factor in their success.
Another useful secret to success is to target a niche demographic, as providing content marketed towards a specific audience will help ensure a strong following. Market segmentation is an advertising theory which ‘suggests that the mass market consists of some number of relatively homogeneous groups, each with distinct needs and desires’ (Limitations, 2011). Although this theory is used primarily to market goods or services, it can be of great use in the context of building a career in media. The same process of identifying the wants and needs of a specific audience will allow someone, as a content provider, to become a ‘big fish in a small pond’ (Market Segmentation Study Guide, 2012). Examples of media professionals who have successfully used this tactic include both Anna Wintour and Molly Meldrum. In the months prior to Wintour taking the position as editor-in-chief of American Vogue, readership had begun to decline due to competition from Elle, a similar magazine. Upon becoming editor, Wintour began targeting a younger generation, making the magazine more ‘…fresh,… up to date, relevant and upbeat’ (Maier, 1994). Essentially, Wintour deliberately targeted a younger audience, and it was this change that effectively allowed Vogue to keep their edge over competitors. In this way, it can be seen that targeting a specific demographic, in this case ‘energetic, executive women’ (Biography.com Editors, n.d.), is an extremely useful ‘secret of success’.
Molly Meldrum similarly used the idea of tapping into a niche market when he pioneered Countdown, which specifically catered to middle-class Australian teenagers. Prior to 1974, the year in which Molly Meldrum created Countdown, there were various music television shows aimed at teenagers, the most notable competitor being Sound Unlimited. Sound Unlimited was much the same format as Countdown, featuring music videos and interviews with both national and international guests (Kruger, 2013); the crucial difference was the fact that Sound Unlimited aired on Saturday mornings at 9:00 a.m., whilst Countdown was aired on Sunday evenings (Nostalgia Central, 1998). This small difference allowed Countdown to become the more popular of the two shows; teenagers were more likely to watch a show at 6:00 p.m., rather than first thing in the morning. Once again, it is seen that an acute perceptiveness to the wants and needs of a specific segment of society is instrumental in consolidating success in media. Evidently, being able to both successfully target, and have an in-depth knowledge of, a certain audience is a media ‘secret of success’.
Many media practitioners have risen to prominence through developing their own brand and honing in on a niche market, yet being an initiator of change in the media is what has sustained their success. In a rapidly evolving media environment, the most lucrative media professionals are the ones that “are quick to read and act on signals of change” (Reeves and Deimler, 2011). The most obvious way in which to advocate this change is through the pioneering of different avenues to distribute content through. Molly Meldrum’s Countdown empire opened up a new opportunity for local talent to be broadcast to such a wide, national audience. This type of promotion of Australian acts on television was around but quite scarce at this time and Molly Meldrum’s further exploration of this area of the media set him up for years to come.
Anthony Fantano was also an advocate for change in the music industry yet in a different way to Meldrum. Although Fantano started out in radio, he utilised the growing prominence of YouTube to reinvent the way he reviewed music; he brought the art of the music review from a more traditional text format into a visual video format. The emerging popularity of YouTube content creators also using podcasts influenced Fantano’s decision to do the same, bringing music reviewing into yet another platform. In Anna Wintour’s case, being at the forefront of the fashion industry as well as being controversial in her approach to her work has kept her consistently relevant. Pippa Hallas from the Sydney Morning Herald said in an article about success in the business industry that “the most important thing we do as a company is stay relevant” (Hallas, 2015). Although the article was in regards to business, the same principles are demonstrated in the media as seen in Anna Wintour’s career. Through Vogue, Wintour has been a major player in influencing fashion trends as well as adapting to the growing digital market by creating an online platform for the magazine which has kept her and Vogue in the public eye. It is essential to note that being a successful media practitioner requires not only the ability to adapt to the changes happening in the industry but also being at the forefront of these changes. These professionals exemplify how being an advocate for change in the media is a key factor to achieve success in this industry.
When it comes to successfully establishing a prosperous career in the media industry, it is clear how important it is to have a keen eye for change as well as a sense of individuality all the while keeping a target market in mind. These three ‘secrets of success’ are an integral part in achieving a rewarding career in a constantly developing media landscape. As demonstrated by the practitioners mentioned previously, as well as countless other professionals, when these concepts are put in place they can significantly change the course of someone’s career and pave the way for huge success. Journalism, media and communication professionals have had to adapt to the fast-paced nature of the media industry and will have to continue to adapt as the field develops even further in the future.
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Hallas, P. 2015. Innovation Breeds Success. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/entrepreneur/innovation-breeds-success-20150217-13gvsl.html
Hermida, Alfred. 2009. Journalism Students Need to Develop Their Personal Brand. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://mediashift.org/2009/08/journalism-students-need-to-develop-their-personal-brand231/
Holt, Simon. 2016. Introduction to innovation. Accessed April 26, 2016. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6286136-dt-content-rid-5946462_1/courses/KJB102_16se1/Introduction%20to%20innovation.pdf
Kruger, D. (2013). Australian Music Media. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.debbiekruger.com/broadcaster/ausmusicmedia.html#sound
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Madden, Michael. 2014. Anthony Fantano Wants to Turn You on. Accessed April 26,2016. http://consequenceofsound.net/2014/10/anthony-fantano-wants-to-turn-you-on/
Maier, Thomas. 1994. Newhouse: All the Glitter, Power, and Glory of America’s Richest Media Empire and the Secretive Man Behind it. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Market Segmentation Study Guide. 2012. Niche Marketing. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.segmentationstudyguide.com/understanding-target-markets/niche-marketing/
Nostalgia Central. 1998. Countdown. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://nostalgiacentral.com/music/music-on-film-and-tv/countdown-2/
Reeves, Martin and Mark Deimler. 2011. “Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage”. Accessed April 20, 2016. https://hbr.org/2011/07/adaptability-the-new-competitive-advantage
Saltzman, Barry S. 2015. Why Personal Branding Is Essential to Career Success. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://www.fastcompany.com/3048401/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/why-personal-branding-is-essential-to-career-success
Young, Trevor. 2016. What aspiring thought leaders can learn from Molly Meldrum. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://www.trevoryoung.me/what-aspiring-thought-leaders-can-learn-from-molly-meldrum/
This piece was co-authored by Paris Komselis and Holly Payne. It was written for KJB102: Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications, a unit in my Journalism degree at QUT.