We’re halfway there, and I hope you’re all having as much fun as I am. It’s so exciting to see everybody come up to speed on the many topics were talking about, and to hear the great ideas you’ve come up with for class projects. I want you to keep refining your ideas, and some of this week’s assignments will help with that. My intrepreneurship presentation is here, and once again, if you missed John Paton’s presentation/manifesto about what Journal Register is doing to reinvent itself, it’s here.
Next week’s topic is Revenue, aka Show Me the Money. We’ll be talking about advertising, subscriptions and other ways to get people to pay you. Our speakers will be Liddy Manson and Deb Correa, two veterans of WashingtonPost.com’s advertising side (and elsewhere), who will talk about ad sales, networks, ad mechanics and assorted other advertising-related topics. We’ll also be debating the pros and cons of online subscriptions.
Create a slogan for your startup. Catchy, descriptive, high-concept—it’s your elevator pitch in 140 characters or less. Backfence’s was “It’s All Local.” GrowthSpur’s was “Crowdsourcing Local Advertising Sales.” Rebecca’s is “Facebook for Dead People.” You get the idea. This can be fun, and can help you to really focus on the essence of your idea. Have at it and let’s hear the results on Saturday.
Also for Saturday: Pretend you’re a consultant for a major media company, and tell it what it must do to change its fortunes. This doesn’t have to be deep or exhaustive–we’ll try to do it in three-minute presentations. But take what you’ve learned and apply it in an innovative, intrapreneurial way to an existing company (maybe even the one you work for). Shoot for the moon, play God. Tell The Washington Post it needs to merge with Politico, stat. Suggest to your local community paper that it morph into an app. Advise the New York Times to turn Sunday Arts and Living and the crossword puzzle into paid online sites and make the rest of the newspaper a free e-mail product. Whatever. You’re the high-priced consultant, they’re trapped in the past. Tell them what to do to transform the business.
Another Saturday task: To prep for the class debate on subscriptions, see the readings below and think a bit about how to make the argument for one side or the other. This is probably the single hottest religious issue in the online news business. As with many people, my own opinion on it has been back and forth over the years, and as the old Miller Lite ad used to say, I now feel strongly both ways. Well, more one way than the other. But it’s not a black and white issue, and truth be told, there’s not a whole lot of hard data to support either side. We may get more this year as the New York Times and others dip their toes into subscriptions. I think our debate will expose some of the passions this idea stirs up among journalists (Hey! Whaddya mean you’re not going to pay me for my hard work?! Freeloaders! And so on.)
Back to the business plans, but this time the due date is for the following Saturday’s class, March 19: Come up with an original, offbeat way to pitch your business. You’re already doing a formal presentation and P&L. Find another way to tell your story: a skit, a puppet show, a pamphlet, whatever. The Nickettes have already set the bar for this with their great Xtranormal video describing SwapDrama. Have fun with this assignment, and be ready to present them on March 19, hopefully to gales of laughter—and some fresh insights into your business idea. It helps to come at these things from a wildly different angle.
To the readings, which are not behind a paywall:
- What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis: Advertising chapter (PDF)—An overview of online advertising.
- New Business Models for News, City University of New York, report (2010)—Lots of good thinking here from Jarvis and team at CUNY, exploring different revenue models. One size doesn’t fit all, and most successful businesses probably will draw on several of these revenue streams.
- Main Report: About the Project (pp. 5-12)(PDF)
- Ecosystem (PDF)
- Hyperlocal Model (PDF)
- New News Organization Model (PDF)
- New News Organization Model (paid content) (PDF)
- For in-class discussion: New Business Models for News Financial Model (XLS)—Pay attention to this spreadsheet: We’ll be diving in and dissecting it in class. It’s fun to play with. Don’t worry—ou can’t hurt it.
- Entrepreneurial Journalists Should Pursue Several Revenue Streams, by Steve Buttry, The Buttry Diary blog post (2010)—Buttry suggests a few more way to wring dollars from online businesses.
- Goldilocks Strategy Emerges for Paid Online Content with Dallas, Civil Beat, Brill ‘Study’, by Rick Edmonds, Poynter.org blog post (2011)—A quick overview of what the Dallas Morning News and Hawaii Civil Beat are doing with subscriptions.
- Will an Ad Network Work for Your News Site? Or Are You Just Going to Have to Sell Your Own Ads? by Robert Niles, OJR: The Online Journalism Review (2011)—Basics of plugging an ad network into a news site.
- Glam: The Success of the Network, by Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine blog post (2007)—Interesting look at a pioneering advertising network for content sites, including the famous “pizza” diagram of ad networks.
- GrowthSpur Operations Manual: Chapter 2, Advertising 101: The Basics (pp. 16-42) (PDF)—Everything you could possibly want to know about how to sell ads (actually, not, but it’s a good start). There’s a lot here; feel free to skim a bit.
- Between Little Rock and a Hard Place, by Mark Potts, Recovering Journalist blog post (2009)—As a bit of fodder for our subscription debate, the account of my own subscription debate with a publisher in Arkansas who thinks people should pay to read newspaper Web sites.
- Baseless Speculation! Frank Rich and the Price of Paywalls for Writers, by Megan Garber, Nieman Journalism Lab (2011)—More debate fodder, with some interesting thoughts about what subscription models mean to journalists’ ability to reach an audience.
(Note that I’ve started tweaking the syllabus a bit from the original published version. The Web site version is always up to date, but if you printed out the original version, it’s changed a bit, as promised/threatened.)
One more: Simple P&L Template—This is the spreadsheet you’ll need to build a financial model for your proposed business. It’s highly simplified, hits all the major costs and revenues, and I’ve even filled out part of it for you. You get to fill in the other blanks for your company. The finished version will be due, along with your final presentation, in Week 9. Note that there are three tabs here: The template itself; a key to each line item; and a sample filled-out version that I made up. Once you’ve spent time with the CUNY spreadsheet, which is far more complicated, this will feel very simple. But it’s also going to be very humbling. Dive in and give it a try.
That’s about it. Please keep updating your passion projects, be sure to add outgoing links and seek incoming links, and try to drive up your traffic. See you Saturday!