Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Digital media: Amusing ourselves to death?

Gencarelli, Manhattan College Photo
Communications professors at Tec of Monterrey had a visitor last week, Thom Gencarelli of Manhattan College, who made us think about what we are teaching and how we are doing it.

Among the questions he left us with:
  • In 1985, Neil Postman wrote that the dominant media of a culture in fact shapes the culture, is the culture (Amusing Ourselves to Death). In his day, Postman saw television as degrading all aspects of culture -- religion, literature, education, politics -- to a form of visual entertainment. So how are digital media defining and shaping our culture today? he asked. Are they degrading or improving it?
  • Do the immediacy, urgency, and visual nature of digital media make us less capable of appreciating the culture of the written word? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Demand for entrepreneurial journalism training is multilingual, international

One in six U.S. residents is of Hispanic or Latino origin. Half consume news in Spanish.
This post was prepared for sharing at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators Summit July 10. Much of the material is drawn from previous blog posts. 


American universities are leaders in creating programs in entrepreneurial journalism. We could strengthen that position by reaching out to Hispanic communities in the U.S., which is one-sixth of the U.S. population (53 million). We could also learn from the many innovations among Spanish speakers in the Americas (418 million).

Potential benefits:

1. Universities could attract more students from Latin America interested in seeing some of the advances taking place in the dynamic U.S. media market.

2. U.S. students with Spanish skill could find opportunities in Hispanic media in the U.S., from the big operators like Univision and Impremedia to the hundreds of small radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and internet media.

3. U.S. students with sufficient language skill could find opportunities to work in Latin American media and study in the region's finest universities.

4. Professors in the U.S. could enrich their courses with examples from Latin America, where difficult political and economic conditions have led to innovation.

5. With a global focus, faculty and students could benefit from international exchanges and guest lectures via Skype, Hangouts, webinars, and other telecommunication aids.

6. Faculty exchanges. More universities around the world want courses taught in English. U.S. professors with specific expertise, such as multimedia and entrepreneurial journalism, are in demand.

Have I missed anything? (Special thanks to Jeremy Caplan, education director at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY for suggestions on improving the usefulness of this post.)


Saturday, July 5, 2014

For digital startups, dealing with extreme uncertainty

When you are starting out with a digital product, it makes sense to get advice from experts. But experts can't help you learn as much as you can on your own.

In fact, most of the successful digital entrepreneurs I know give the same advice: develop a prototype as quickly as possible. A business plan or a powerpoint is fine, but you need to put your actual product into the hands of the public and test your theories. See if they work.
(See the comments of Olga Lucia Lozano, Daniel EilembergGonzalo Costa, and, in Spanish, Leo Prieto, Gumersindo LaFuente and others.)
The thinking of these entrepreneurs has gotten its most eloquent expression in Eric Ries's book The Lean Startup. The idea is to save time and money on product development by introducing a  minimum viable product to the target customer, measuring response, making adjustments, and trying again. (Some examples for journalists are below.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

What venture capitalists like about Latin America

Versión en español.  

Venture capitalists in Latin America are looking for digital media startups with rapid growth, a plan for monetization, and international potential.

Francisco Coronel: digital media well positioned
Obviously, most new media don't fit that profile. But startups with these characteristics are starting to attract angel investors who provide the first rounds of capital, says Francisco Coronel, CFO and cofounder of Nxtplabs, an incubator of digital companies in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Digital media have extra potential because there is a growing demand for content that these companies are positioned to satisfy at lower cost than traditional media, Coronel told me in an interview.

(Disclosure: I just spent two weeks at Nxtplabs training three digital media teams under a contract with the International Center for Journalists.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Land of opportunity in digital news: Buenos Aires

Miranda Mulligan, right, and me, left, with the startup teams.
Versión en español aquí.

We hear a lot about the next Silicon Valley, but we don't hear much about the Valley of Death. That is where 80 percent of tech startups go to die.

Startups die or join the walking dead mainly for two reasons: they don't have enough cash or they don't have enough knowledge to get to the next stage of development. They are unable to show investors that their project could be commercially viable.

The Media Factory News Accelerator, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, wants to change those odds of making it across the Valley of Death.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

11 revenue sources for digital news organizations

Versión en español.

So much innovation is occurring on the revenue side of new digital media that it's time to review, update and aggregate. Some of the material has appeared in this blog before. 

Let´s start with the basics.

1. Create community, don't just publish news. An audience is just a group of observers.  A community shares values and a deep interest in a topic or geographic area. It often has a bias toward action. That is where value comes in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Narrative in Latin America: conscience and credibility

Versión en español.

For a class on narrative techniques here in Mexico, I was looking for examples of the kind of writing you find in New Yorker. The magazine Gatopardo has that reputation.

Alejandro Almazán. Photo: MasPorMas.com
It was there I found the story of "A hapless narco" ("Un narco sin suerte) by Alejandro Almazan and immediately got hooked.  It tells the story of one J.R., a singer of corridos, traditional songs that tell stories of heroes and villains based on real people and events.

J.R. and his family are living a quiet life up in the mountains when he hears about the fortunes being made in the illegal drug trade by people in Culiacan, in northwestern Mexico. He decides he wants a piece of that. But his every attempt fails for reasons that are by turns hilarious and frightening.

The story is perfect in every detail. So perfect, in fact, that I wondered if this were really journalism or fiction. The magazine gave it a journalistic label: "reportaje," which is definitely not fiction.