Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Why entrepreneurs are journalism’s only hope

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 7, 2011

Even David Cameron’s saying it now. In a speech to his spring conference this weekend he announced that entrepreneurs are Britain’s ‘only strategy’ for growth, and is promising help for people starting their own businesses in this month’s budget.

The same is true for journalism too. The call to enterprise isn’t a stop-gap, nor an acceptance of defeat trying to get a ‘proper’ job.

Journalism needs entrepreneurs to shake things up and make some new things happen. In the shadow of newsroom cuts, creative famine and spreading churnalism, these brave starters are journalism’s ‘only strategy’ for growth.

As if by magic (or more likely by perusing the planning diary) the Observer yesterday featured several ‘young guns‘: young men and women who, in the face of high youth unemployment, have made their own careers happen. Included was 20-year-old film-maker Jamal Edwards who founded SBTV, an impressive youth channel; Georgina Cooper, 26, the creator of PretaPortobello.com; Gerard Jones, 21, who founded his own football training academy while still at university; and Edwin Broni-Mensah, 25, who’s come up with a great business around refillable water bottles.

They are inspiring stories of young people who, in the face of a game where the odds were stacked against them, invented a new game, with the rules squarely in their favour. And they’re relishing the freedom and opportunity it gives them. Meanwhile, more young journalists who fought their way into a national newspaper the old way are handing in their notices!

So start now…but start small.

The time to make your own career happen is now.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism Festival a week ago, alongside Joanna Geary from the Times, Chris Ship from ITV, Patrick Smith from the The Media Briefing and many others.

I was there to talk about entrepreneurial journalism – and in particular, the often overlooked beauty of starting an intentionally small, but insanely profitable business. In it, I presented several examples of journalists making money in new ways, described how I did it launching my business studio .fu and gave some practical advice on how to start a business with no funding, no employees and no office.

My presentation is available to view by clicking here.

You can also read a write-up and listen to an interview here.

The lure of having @bbc.co.uk or @cnn.com on your email address is a temptress, I know. But we are entering an age where the self-starter is the one with the opportunities – don’t miss out! If you still need convincing read this great article in Smashing Magazine.

And for another four weeks, there is the opportunity to win £1000 in cash to get your business off the ground in our unique myNewsBiz competition. Click here for details of how to enter.

UPDATE: a couple of similar excellent posts from other young journalists today: Joseph Stashko asks why are j-students still attracted by the mainstream media; and Marc Thomas explains why he’s going entrepreneurial instead of looking for jobs this summer.

myNewsBiz: a great new opportunity for UK journalism students

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 8, 2010

If the future of news is entrepreneurial, then it’s not as easy as saying “it is so”. Thousands of journalists won’t head straight to Companies House the next morning to register their new business.

If more journalists and other creatives are to create their own careers, build innovative new businesses and spark employment for thousands of others, their entrepreneurial spirit needs fostering early on.

If journalism in the future is powered by entrepreneurs they must be comfortable with business – and excited by it.

Well, I’m really excited to announce the launch of a new nationwide competition I have been working on, alongside Kingston University’s Journalism department in London.

We’re inviting journalism students from any UK university to come up with ideas for new news businesses – whether it’s a platform, a product or a service. We’re putting together a panel of industry judges and the business idea they like the most will win £1000 in cold hard cash to turn it into reality.

A 2nd place runner up will also get £500 to invest in their idea too.

It could be a hyperlocal website, a new smartphone app, an iPad magazine, a production company, an online video platform, a magazine, or even the next social media platform…almost anything!

It’s a great chance to get the next generation of journalists thinking about what makes a good business, how to find a unique selling point and identify a target market. This quick film we made explains the rest:

Training

In the new year we’ll also be unveiling some extensive online training materials to introduce students to the idea of business and enterprise, and help them develop their ideas before sending in their submissions.

How to enter

Entry to the competition is free for groups and individuals – you just need to head over to mynewsbiz.org and download an application form, which you can email back to us by the deadline: 1st April 2011.

With just a handful of journalism courses in the UK touching on the idea of entrepreneurial journalism, this is an unrivalled opportunity to find out what being entrepreneurial really means – and maybe get the cash you need to start your own company!

Slideshow: the new journalist and the age of social media

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 8, 2009

Just a quick post here to flag up an excellent presentation by social media expert JD Lasica.

At 61 slides its pretty long, but in on topics such as journalists as entrepreneurs and storytellers he’s right on the money. There’s also loads of good suggestions for free websites and apps journalists can use.

Over to Mr Lasica (and hattip: Journalism.co.uk)

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Three examples of sexy text

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 2, 2009

The gentle, yet persistent, scrubbing of the reporter voice-over from online video has paved the way for more on screen text.

A large amount of the online video journalism  I watch uses text to move the story forward rather than a voice over (and if they’re really good, they can do it with just the words of their characters).

Text used well is powerful – and can often tell the whole story on its own.

Three examples of text sexiness

01. Penny For Your Thought

A series by Dutch think-tank Freedom Lab has taken the most difficult form of audio possible: phone audio – and made it engaging and interesting with text:

[Hat tip: Kevin Kelly]

02. The Machine Is Us/ing US

A classic of the internet now, but Professor Michael Wesch’s piece uses computer text very effectively here:

03. Entrepreneurs can change the world

This inspiring ditty animates text to lead us through an argument

In MSM text is usually an afterthought, and saved only for Astons and captions of people on screen. But don’t negate them all together. Text offers both video and audio slideshow producers a unique and underused new way into the hearts and minds of the viewer.

The future of journalism is out there (what’s stopping you?)

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 9, 2009

Journalism has a lot of hurdles to overcome if it’s to not only survive, but thrive for the next 100 years.

Money is a big one. So is citizen journalism. And yes, the decline of audience and the death of print are pretty massive too.

But the biggest hurdle, the one we must all overcome; the one which will guarantee a great future for news, has nothing to do with ink and paper.

I’m talking about attitude. Journalism is not going anywhere because hardly anyone’s got the right attitude.

And what attitude is that, I hear you cry?

It hasn’t got a name, but we know Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page have it. And Evan Williams has it to. Jonathan Fields and Jonathan Mead definitely have it. By the looks of things journalists like David Dunkley-Gyimah, Michael Rosenblum and Jeff Jarvis possess it too.

There are some bloggers, like Lisa Williams, Hannah Waldram and Hermione Way who got some.

It’s obvious William Kamkwamba from Malawi is bursting with it.

Important people at the Times, Independent, New York Times, Telegraph, ITN, Sky and the Boston Globe don’t have it, which is why they’ll eventually fail. And across the West, in Britain, the US, Canada and Australia, not enough journalists have it. It’s why we’re getting busy going nowhere.

It can be summed up in truisms like these:

Some truisms about attitude

And pretty much boils down to:

It’s the attitude which gets inventors, artists…and yes, even entrepreneurs out of bed in the morning.

And it is the attitude which delivers the key to the future of journalism.

If we’re not careful the future of news, belongs to them, and not the journalists...no wait, hang on. If we ARE careful, it belongs to them. The whole point is we have to stop being careful! Take some  risks, get your hands dirty!

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