Monday, September 10, 2012

You don't need all the skills to get started

Entrepreneurial journalists have a tough job.

They need skills not only in journalism but marketing, technology, sales, managing online communities and basic accounting, among other things. Fortunately, they don't need to have all the skills mastered at once.

Start small, but start

This is one of the takeaways from entrepreneurs profiled in Mark Briggs's book “Entrepreneurial Journalism: How To Build What's Next for News.” 

The profiles should give hope to beginners because the founders of successful web ventures such as Paid Content, Talking Points Memo and West Seattle Blog started small and gradually built their sites into authoritative sources in their respective niches.

They added skills or skilled people as their projects grew. They did not allow their knowledge gaps to hold them back. They learned as they went along.

Adding skills

And now journalists getting started on the web have a tool that will help them fill the gaps. Briggs's book has suggestions on everything from selecting a content management system to pricing advertising on a website. The book has been adopted in some university journalism programs.

Don't delay is a refrain of the book. Those who try to perfect their product before launch will miss the opportunity to test it in the real world with real customers. Briggs quotes author Guy Kawasaki: “An innovator doesn't worry about shipping an innovative product with elements of crappiness if it is truly innovative.”

Many models

Because the old business models for journalism have been collapsing, entrepreneurs are having to invent new ones. There is no single model. The value of the case studies in Briggs's book is that they show a variety of solutions to such fundamental problems as how to generate revenue. Among them: consulting on digital communication, special events, syndicating content, direct sale of products online, and memberships.

If there is a formula, it is this: “Test, try, play, fail, try again,” according to Briggs.

So why do they do entrepreneurs undertake the daunting challenge? Often they have an idea they can do news better than the big media. They see a market that is not being served. They want to serve their communities.

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