Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journalism students in Madrid told to "go for it"

During a presentation at the Complutense University of Madrid (center), I talked about the new vision of entrepreneurial journalism (center photo) and some of its advocates. One of the attendees created a collage of the people mentioned: (clockwise, from upper left) Clay Shirky of NYU, Dan Gillmor of Arizona State University, Brian Stelter of the New York Times and Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter.
MADRID -- Traditional news media are suffering in Spain, with some 3,500 journalists laid off in the past two years. Add to that the recent news that one of the country’s most prestigious news organizations, Prisa Group, owner of El País newspaper, is laying off 2,500 workers, or nearly one in five.

The dream of journalism students to work for large media organizations is being crushed by economic reality. I urged a group of 150 at the Complutense University in Madrid to start their own digital media and be news entrepreneurs.

I told the students about a number of news entrepreneurs in Latin America, where I worked for three years, and some of the innovative news projects in the U.S., such as Texas Tribune, ProPublica and Voice of San Diego.

(One of the students wrote a blog entry about the presentation, as did a professor who attended.)

Barriers to entry are low; cost of failure minimal

The mentality of entrepreneurs, I told the students, is quite different from the rest of the journalism and business world, and here is some of their relevant advice:

Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, on how to select a project: "Create something that you beleive should exist in the world. Something that interests you and motivates you. You have to have confidence in your gut feelings....Plant the seeds and watch them grow. Let the audience tell you what the product should be."

David Cohn, founder of "It´s cheaper and easier to try something than to debate about it."

Dan Gillmor, digital journalism guru at Arizona State University:"The majority of new projects are going to fail, and so what? The costs of failure are low.

Clay Shirky, journalism professor at NYU: "It’s better to experiment than to plan strategies."
 New business models

 Students believe that advertising and subscriptions are the best way to finance a new journalism venture, but I gave them a number of others:
  • Events, with revenue from tickets, booth fees and sponsors
  • Online stores with unique products
  • Consulting services, such as digital marketing and communications, web page design
  • Contract publishing on the web, in which the news organization creates publications for clients
  • Premium subscription rates for access to specialized content
  • Daily deals, a la Groupon
  • Headline service delivered through a cellphone or special editions for smartphones
  • Support from nonprofit foundations
  • Memberships with varying levels of benefits according to the size of the contribution
Afterward, Professors Concha Edo and Juan Carlos Marcos Recio, who had invited me, said that the message was timely for students. They are facing a dismal job market that has been worsened by Spain's unique financial crisis. This was a new message for them that they could create their own future.


1 comment:

  1. Im startins my own media business, my first magazine is already in the streets of ireland(Newsbrazil). Im using my money and all my hopes. Thanks for the post.