Job Description: GIS Specialist – Media

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Briefly describe a typical day:

I spend about 75% of my days and weeks working with GIS and the accompanying databases, either updating existing maps or designing new ones. Most of that time is spent working alone at my computer, but I have plenty of opportunity to interact with my fellow research analysts and the other internal customers — company directors, department managers and advertising account executives — for whom I make my maps.

How do you use GIS to help your company?
A media company that publishes three newspapers — including a major metro in suburban Los Angeles — and several other products, we use maps for strategic planning and advertising sales tools. Briefly, for planning purposes, we use GIS to examine high-growth areas of the market, lifestyle clustering, competitive circulation market share, etc. For advertisers, we plot client and competitors’ locations, often over demographics such as ethnicity, income, circulation penetration, etc. We try to show our clients where there are opportunities for growth in the market, where the greatest competitive threats lie, and so on.

GIS software used:
ArcView 3.2

What skills do you need to be successful in your position?
A good logical and analytical mind, the ability to recognize trends (and also things that don’t make sense), good spatial perception, at least a modicum of graphic design ability, fundamental math skills, strong writing ability, comprehensive knowledge of MS Excel and Access, a comfort level in working with something not a lot of people are going to know much about, and finally a lot of patience (with both the GIS program and colleagues who use the maps but may not understand spatial concepts and/or GIS issues). One of things I like best about my job is the wide range of skills it takes to do it well.

What do you particularly enjoy about your position?
Creating maps that are valuable analytical tools, and that also “wow” people by making complex data easier to understand and because they are beautiful to look at and study. Also, after having reveled in the study of 300-year-old literature in college, I especially enjoy working with something that is so cutting-edge — new and innovative. Many more people can appreciate maps than have any inkling what GIS is.

What don’t you like about your position?
Having to deal with co-workers who are particularly dense, rude or unreasonably demanding (but those kind of folks are found in every job environment).


How did you get started in GIS?:
Having to deal with co-workers who are particularly dense, rude or unreasonably demanding (but those kind of folks are found in every job environment). start: I was recruited to come to this newspaper from a smaller paper, and one of the things that swayed my decision was their use of GIS here. (It was a pretty rudimentary system seven and a half years ago, but it was GIS nonetheless.) When the opportunity soon after arose for me to specialize in mapping, I jumped at the chance. Since then, I have brought the mapping function into the 21s century with the advancements in computers and with ArcView.

How did you find out about your current position?:
A colleague in the newspaper industry contacted me and asked if I’d like to apply for the job. She ended up hiring me.

What parting words of advice to you have?:
GIS is a wonderful tool to wed tabular data to a visual presentation. Everyone and everything is always somewhere. GIS mapping is a way to visually describe that spatial phenomenon and to easily relate very disparate things (data and geography) to each other.

Submitted April 13, 2001 by Michael Schuerman.

Job TitleIndustryLocation
Senior Marketing Research Analyst/GIS SpecialistMediaCalifornia
Years of ExperienceEducation
Salary Range
($ USD)
7B.A. in English (1979)$50,000 – $60,000


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Uses for GPS