By Steve Gehlen, Founder and Executive Director, Internet Strategy Forum
The Internet Executive goes by many names. Often, a company’s website guru has a litany
of job functions, and that makes the position
difficult to define in one title. Unfortunately,
this confusion can lead to problems.
The first of several issues is that the public
has trouble understanding exactly what
Internet professionals do, and fails to recognize
it as a legitimate new profession. It can
also lead to difficulties in hiring, both from a
qualifications perspective and appropriate
salary ranges. Because the Internet profession
is relatively new and the overall job scope,
responsibilities and skill requirements are still
unchartered territory for many compensation
analysts, some Internet executives may not be
receiving fair compensation relative to their
peers inside the same company. To make matters
worse, many Internet position classifications
have been adapted from pre-existing marketing or IT jobs and don’t take into
account the hybrid nature of the role.
Who are the people behind some of the
most well-known corporate websites? What
is their education level and professional background?
What are their job responsibilities?
What areas of expertise are required for them
In an effort to answer these questions
and many more, the Internet Strategy
Forum — a professional association for corporate
Internet executives — developed a
deep-dive 37-question survey that was
answered by over 250 of their 1,500 members,
resulting in unique insight into this
important corporate function.
The answers might surprise you.
The Corporate Internet Executive Survey,
underwritten by Welchman Pierpoint, a Web
operations management consulting company,
focused exclusively on the executives responsible
for driving strategy and implementation
for their company’s Internet presence.
The objectives of the research study are:
• Achieve a comprehensive understanding
of corporate Internet executive roles and
the people who fill them.
• Educate the broader business community
about the role and value of in-house corporate
• Help determine future professional development
offerings of the Internet Strategy
Generally speaking, the most typical survey
respondent is male, 35-54 years old with a
Bachelor’s Degree and earning more than
$95,000 annually, while managing a staff of
three or more people.
Specifically, nearly 70 percent of respondents
are 35-54 years old, with the next
largest segment represented by 18-24 year olds,
at 26 percent. The male-to-female ratio
is 2.3 to 1. Just under half have a Bachelor’s
Degree as their highest level of education,
with 42 percent earning a Masters Degree.
Prior to becoming full-time Internet executives,
the respondent’s professional background
varies greatly. The majority come
from traditional marketing positions, followed
closely by traditional Information
Technology positions. Other areas garnering
at least 10 percent of responses include
graphic design, application development,
customer support and sales. Only 15 percent
of respondents have been working as an
Internet professional since college.
Job Descriptions and Salaries
Not surprisingly, higher salaries typically go
to those responsible for large budgets.
However, and somewhat surprisingly, at the
$110,000 - $125,000 salary range, experience
is not always an indicator. Twenty percent
of respondents with 1-5 years of experience
reported earning that much, while only 13
percent of those with 10 or more years of
experience reported the same. This could be
signs of age discrimination in this young
profession. If that’s the case, HR professionals
should be on guard so it doesn’t become
Even after grouping similar job titles, the
complete survey report includes a list of
respondent job titles that runs across three
columns for two-and-a-half pages — a true
testament to the disorganized nature of
Internet executive titles.
For the Internet profession to mature, the
job title and position description situation needs to be addressed on an industry-wide
basis. Only when some standards are set can
the profession gain a high level of visibility
and credibility. The Internet Strategy Forum
plans to publish job title recommendations
for the industry as a result of these and other
To help make sense of the job title variations
and give perspective to survey responses,
the survey asks respondents to categorize
their job title into one of four levels:
These “traditional” job titles were chosen
by respondents to describe their positions
within their organizations as they saw best fit.
In the full report, these categories are equated
with question responses as cross-tabs, to help
other executives relate their experience
accordingly. The good news is that it’s evident
the Internet executive is holding a prominent
role in their organizations, even if they have
yet to be fully defined.
To further add to the picture of the people
filling these roles, it is useful to know
their responsibilities. The majority of
respondents are responsible for public-facing
websites and just under half are responsible
for their company’s social media and
community presence. About 40 percent are
responsible for their company’s Intranet,
many times in combination with the public facing
site. The majority of the public-facing
sites are Business-to-Consumer sites, followed
closely by Business-to-Business. At
left is a list of the top 10 responses to the
question, “What type of Internet strategy are
you most responsible for?”
You can see that four of the choices garnered
over 50 percent of responses, and
another two topped 40 percent. This clearly
demonstrates the hybrid nature of the
Internet executive. Looking at these responses,
it’s also clear how vital the position is to a
company’s overall success.
In order to perform in these roles,
Internet executives reported a large variety
of skills and expertise that are required for
Again, the broad scope of tasks is evident.
Unfortunately, many outside of the profession
have no idea what is required to successfully
manage a corporate Web presence. That
needs to change.
The Internet Strategy Forum hopes that
distribution of this information within the
business community will help raise awareness
about the Internet executive role and
help better demonstrate the value these people
bring to the table for their company.