Ninth in a series on entrepreneurial journalism programs at universities and media organizations.
Mark Briggs, the man who wrote the book about entrepreneurial journalism, believes that universities are among the best places to experiment with new business models for news.
He favors the model of a lab where students are encouraged to propose new products and applications and try them out on real audiences. Since the students have no investment in the old ways of doing things, they can approach some of the problems facing media organizations with an open mind.
|Mark Briggs, author of|
What have they come up with? Some examples can be seen at Arizona State in its Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and New Media Innovation Lab, and at Northwestern University's Medill School. J-Lab, a journalism innovation center housed at American University, has also encouraged innovations through grants.
Abandon legacy methods
"Experimentation is really important right now because we don't know what the new models are going to look like, especially when it comes to the business side and revenue for news. I think for too long in the digital space we've tried to force legacy business models on new platforms."
One of those legacy models is the banner ad, which he says is broken and irreparable. "What's the next model? We don't know. That's why we need experimentation."
Among the experiments he mentions is so-called "native advertising," which in many ways resembles what used to be called advertorial -- material that has a thematic link to the editorial content but is presented and labeled as separate. (A graphic produced by Solve media explains some of the key features.)
Lean startups and the "minimal viable product"
This is a trend best described by Eric Ries in his book "The Lean Startup." "Build as little as you can to get meaningful data on your product with a particular audience," Briggs says. "This model works well with the university environment."
(Some say journalism schools aren't innovating fast enough. Eric Newton, senior adviser to the Knight Foundation, and officials of five other funders of journalism programs, said in an open letter to university presidents last summer that they need to abandon the status quo or face becoming irrelevant.)
YouTube's revenue potential
Many of these bloggers are capturing millions of subscribers to their videos and have logged hundreds of millions of views, which can translate into significant money. How much? Briggs says there is little information out there except anecdotes of the kind that suggest a particular video channel employs five or 10 people and is profitable. (Posts like this one, with guesstimates of revenue, are about as specific as you will see.)
Briggs's day job is digital media director for King-5 Television in Seattle, so doing something with their digital content on YouTube seems like a natural. "We're trying to do some of our own experimentation around that. There is very serious money being made on YouTube."
Dan Gillmor: We need more experiments with revenue of media startups