The Fishbowl: Sebastian Tomich, The Athletic
The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions will be drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.
This week is Sebastian Tomich, chief commercial officer at The Athletic.
Sebastian Tomich became chief commercial officer at The Athletic last year after the online sports publisher was acquired by The New York Times for $550m last year.
He first joined The New York Times as vice-president of advertising in 2013, working his way to SVP and global head of advertising and marketing solutions in 2017.
Tomich has previous sales roles at Forbes where he worked for more than five years.
**Peer question** What (if anything) keeps you awake at night?
Not moving fast enough. We have ambitious growth targets and there’s no better feeling than being ahead of schedule. On the flip side there’s no worse feeling than knowing you could have done more, earlier on.
**Question from Ed Couchman, previously UK general manager at Snap, now head of sales for UK & Northern Europe at Spotify.
What’s the quality that people admire most about you?
Compliments make me feel uncomfortable but, if I had to guess, it would be cutting out the noise and rallying a team around a clear path to success.
What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?
It might not constitute bravery, but my early days public speaking in my 20s to the broader company had me terrified and feeling like I’d conquered a fear after.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Ask more questions and be a sponge.
If you could take a year off from work, what would you do?
Write a soap opera. Working in media for the last 14-plus years has introduced me to a cast of characters that would make for an amazing script.
What keeps coming up in conversations with clients at the moment?
Women’s sports and F1. Both are having a moment, both have a ton of brands interested in getting into the space.
**Peer question** Who would you say had the most influence in your media sales career? and why?
Meredith Levien, The New York Times’s CEO. She brought me from Forbes to The New York Times very early on and was the best career decision I ever made.
**Question from Jean-Philippe Amos, managing director EMEA & global brand partnerships Mediabridge.
If you could learn any new skill from scratch, what would it be?
Writing artificial intelligence models. I get the sense it will be a superpower in the future.
What are the most important skills that a media salesperson needs in 2022?
Be someone others want to do business with. No matter how hard we try to complicate it, advertising is a relationships business above all else, and that doesn’t change as you get more senior.
Be accountable. There are so many sellers who love the big pitch, but hate the work that follows. Accountability for clients will always win in the long run.
If you could work with any other media owner on a collaborative campaign for an advertiser, who would it be and why?
I’d love to work with Ryan Reynolds and Rob Mcelhenney. Wrexham has been incredible to watch, and I have a feeling we’d make something incredible together (that a brand would sponsor for millions).
Read more Fishbowl interviews here and see what media’s top salespeople say about working in the industry and what concerns their clients. To suggest an interviewee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.