Entrepreneurial journalism - International Federation of Journalists

The Journalist
as Entrepreneur:
Response to Disruption
Confronting Austerity
European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp
Vienna, March 2014
Jane B. Singer @janebsinger
‘This used to be a newsroom’
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio, USA (Photo from CJR)
‘EJ’ as response to disruption
As we all well know ...
Experienced journalists have lost or left their jobs.
New journalists have struggled to find jobs at all –
or been disappointed (financially, professionally or
both) by the ones they have found.
An open-access, low-cost platform beckons.
Necessity (including financial necessity) being the
mother of invention, growing numbers of journalists
have opted to create their own journalistic enterprises.
The spirit is commendable. The challenges are many.
The entrepreneurial journalist
This person needs skills that include, but go well
beyond, those of the typical freelancer.
The entrepreneur is a pitchman / woman, fundraiser,
idea incubator, ad exec, circulation manager,
market analyst
and more.
Many ‘EJs’
report that
less than half
their time is
spent doing
Shifts in practice and perception
Challenges include, among others:
Developing, creating and sustaining
economically viable content ideas.
Luring (and keeping) audiences for them –
audiences that must be actively nurtured,
continuously engaged and often (given
inevitably limited staff) enabled / encouraged
to create meaningful content themselves.
… while identifying and obtaining revenue
sources, then making wise spending calls.
… yet maintaining editorial autonomy.
Journalist  entrepreneur
Few of those tasks fit traditional practices and
skill sets. More fundamentally, they tend to clash
with perceptions about social roles and norms.
I’ll take just
a few of
them …
Traditional journalism
Aggregated, faceless, little / no meaningful contact
Relationships? Job of marketing, circulation staffs
Distinct from, and segregated from, advertisers
Entrepreneurial journalism
Clear and precise understanding of audience
Personal contact, attention, response
Generally niche audience, must be actively courted
Audience members often active contributors
Traditional journalism
 Autonomy norms forbid contact, influence
 Making money? Job of ad, marketing staffs
 Keeping advertisers sweet? So Not My Job
Entrepreneurial journalism
 Overlap between advertisers, audiences
 Advertisers also must be courted, nurtured
 Privacy concerns related to audience info
 Personal financial stake, need to recoup costs
 Yet autonomy norms haven’t gone away …
Traditional journalism
 Rests on professional skills, norms, resources
 Near-exclusive focus on editorial content value
 For news media, central civic role perception
 Competition is knowable and finite
Entrepreneurial journalism
 Institutional resource advantages disappear
 Demand for journalistic skills may not be high
 Niche audiences seek customization, connections
 Differentiation from current offerings, options
 Competition is unknowable and ever-expanding
Traditional journalism:
Reporting, writing, editing
Expanded a bit in response to Internet
Expanded a bit more in response to social media
Entrepreneurial journalism:
All those b-school things you never learned
… And probably disdained
New collaboration and partnerships become vital
Traditional journalism:
Emphasis on human resources: skills, experience
… Resources within newsroom or obtained by it
… Facilitated by connection to established brand
Physical, financial resources rarely on j-radar
Entrepreneurial journalism:
Skills and experience get you only so far
… And key aspects of experience are missing
Relationships of various kinds are key resource
Traditional journalism:
 Newsroom big (typically biggest) expense
 Someone else worried about profit and loss
 … But underlying model stable, well-understood
Entrepreneurial journalism:
 News creation likely still biggest expense
 What else costs money and how much?
 … and where will the money come from?
 Massive instability throughout the sector
 Bottom line: coming in > going out, or bye-bye
Traditional journalism:
 Is there enough money to pay my salary? Good.
 Normative injunctions related to money exchange
 General lack of expertise on fiscal matters
Entrepreneurial journalism:
 Money is now your (chief) concern
 For what, exactly, are people willing to pay?
 A single revenue stream is seldom enough
 Everyone is chasing the same (few) sources
 Again, ‘separation of church, state’ still key to trust
Cultural change (again)
The rise of entrepreneurial journalism – driven by
necessity as much as opportunity, fueled by
technological, economic, social and professional
forces – poses now-familiar existential questions:
Who am I (and what value do I offer)?
What do I do (and what is my social role)?
Which relationships must I nurture?
What defines success (and survival)?
What rewards might I reasonably expect?
Obviously, the answers (maybe even the questions)
are different today than in the past.
Rethinking journalism
Can journalists turn themselves into publishers
in more than the literal sense of the term –
without losing their souls and / or their shirts?
Yes, certainly. But many are ill-equipped to
succeed. Neither newsrooms nor j-schools nor
(correct me if I’m wrong) industry organizations
are providing or promoting the skills or mind sets
needed to be a sustainable innovator.
Time for yet another rethink …
The Journalist
as Entrepreneur:
What do you think?
Confronting Austerity
European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp
Vienna, March 2014
Jane B. Singer ([email protected])

similar documents