Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making money Part I: Mark Briggs

This weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneurs, an intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; find Twitter comment at #revcamp.)

One of the key presenters was Mark Briggs, director of digital media at King 5 TV in Seattle and the author of Entrepreneurial Journalism: How to Build What's Next for News.

Briggs has used a case-study method that is perfect for this new world of journalism in which the models are still being invented. 

Some models of innovation he cited:

  • The New Haven Independent, whose reporters file their stories from coffee shops as a way to connect with readers. "I don't know why more journalists aren't doing this."
  • TechDirt, which reports on technology trends, gets paid by tech companies to test new ideas on their audience. The readers like it. The key to maintaining integrity is transparency.
  • The passion required to be an entrepreneur embodied in the words of Mike Orren, founder of Pegasus News, the Dallas-Fort Worth site focused on local news, concerts and restaurants. "We were the pirate ship. It was a cause, it wasn't a job."
  • Chris Seper, founder of, a portal for coverage of innovation in life sciences and health care, started with a content expert, a marketing expert and a digital journalists (Seper), in other words, a balanced team with complementary skills.

Get out there

Too many entrepreneurial journalists devote little time to the important business of meeting with potential investors, potential advertisers, readers (who are also the most likely investors and advertisers) and partners, Briggs told participants in the course. 

Invite potential investors or advertisers to have coffee and tell them about your project. "Go talk to investors sooner rather than later, have coffee. That's what these people do -- have coffee with entrepreneurs and listen to pitches."

Other advice:
  • Look for a problem to solve for your potential users. Think in terms of what they need, not what you want to produce. How to find out? Ask them, lots of them.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The journalism world is changing so rapidly that you have to be excited about always learning something new. 
  • Finding the right partners is critical. Look for complementary skills. If you're strength is in content, find a coding expert. Briggs told of how his first entrepreneurial venture hit a bump when the technology partner suddenly abandoned the project to go live in another country. 
  • Failure is inevitable. It happens all the time in a complex economy. You can't let it destroy you. Learn from it. 
  • Study innovation and make it part of your personal development plan. "There is fantastic material all over the internet". He recommended visiting Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner

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