Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

A new market for journalists: who else needs good storytelling?

Posted in Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on May 13, 2010

There’s less than a week to go until Next Generation Journalist is available to download. From tomorrow, you’ll be able to get a preview of more of the new ways to make money in journalism on or by signing up here.

04. storytelling for the commercial sector

In the second chapter of Next Generation Journalist I will give a quick series of questions to ask yourself before reading on. The questions are designed to get you to root out exactly what you love about journalism so much. It’s different for every person but it’s vital to the Next Generation Journalist if you want to pursue a new and exciting career path.

Some of them, like this one, aren’t directly about reporting hard news. But I think they’re still worth including, because not every one of us went into journalism to report hard news right? For some of us, it’s about analysing data and making complicated things simple for everyone to understand; for some it’s about getting to meet the rich and famous; and for others it’s about telling stories.

If you dig telling stories, you’ll like this idea.

It’s about converting your expertise in storytelling, whether in print or multimedia to offer content for small businesses which brings them more customers. In return, they’ll pay you for it.

It’s all about the power of the story. I’ve long banged on about storytelling on this blog as well as to journalism students across the UK. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the most powerful, but undervalued crafts in journalism. A good story well told grabs people by the collar and shakes them; it can change their view of the world, make them laugh and make them cry.  Most importantly, stories compel people to action, which is why they’re of value to businesses.

Imagine if you took the power of storytelling and sold it to different industries?

Storytelling for the commercial sector…

  • lets you practice and hone your storytelling and multimedia production skills
  • will help you develop story ideas and contacts to pursue as a journalist
  • could pay you more than editorial clients (depending on how much you’re willing to charge!)
  • is a virtually untapped niche, with countless businesses as potential customers

Here’s how it works: you set up a cheap web based business offering your multimedia storytelling skills to small businesses (the book contains a list of suggested ones); your website convinces them about how a well told story can compel their customers to action (ie buying their product). You offer to do a few short videos for friends or associates for free to build up a decent portfolio. Then you use that start approaching and bringing in clients.

This option might appeal to you, but I understand, it might also repel you. This isn’t journalism after all is it? Well in Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism I’ll show you how it can be part of a wider, bigger income, with the concept of the Portfolio Career.

Click here to find out more!


A wealth of journalism inspiration from New York

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 11, 2009

I’m sure most readers of this blog also follow US new media giant Jeff Jarvis’ blog over at Buzz Machine.

Jeff was telling us the future of journalism is entrepreneurial before anyone had really considered it and Buzz Machine is a hive of interesting writing. Today Jeff posted the results of an Entrepreneurial Journalism class where his CUNY students have been pitching their own business ideas.

For obvious reasons he’s not giving much away, but what he did reveal about the pitches that won some development cash (and those that didn’t) offers some excellent inspiration and ideas to the rest of us:

The four ideas that won some money from the McCormick Foundation are (emphasis mine)

  • a platform for news assignments
  • a mobile sports application
  • a creative, algorithmic answer to filter failure
  • and ClosetTour a new media site dedicated to fashion

And those that didn’t:

  • a specialised womens travel service
  • a specialised local real estate (property) service
  • a cool food idea
  • 2 business-to-business ideas
  • a hyperlocal idea
  • a service for NGOs
  • a commercial service for NGOs

What’s great is the huge variety of ideas – covering news, fashion, food, sport. What’s more as Jeff notes:

A few were built around the need not just to create content but to curate it. Most are highly targeted. Some saw the potential in specialised local services. Some saw the need to go mobile to service the public. Some are international. Some are multimedia. A few saw the need to make news fun, others to make news useful.

And Jeff stressed the need for every business to cut a profit in order to survive. We must be capitalist about it now.

Anyone outside of CUNY or the US should read this and take inspiration. Although Jeff’s descriptions are necessarily vague, use them to fuel your own ideas and thoughts for entrepreneurial models. Think about the importance of serving a market, having a niche, finding a gap in the market – and being able to sum up your business in an elevator pitch.

Earlier today a friend showed me plans for an exciting news business in the North of  England, which I can’t  say anything about at the moment. But all this adds strength to my conviction that, if 2009 was the year of “great media collapse” then 2010 will be the year it rises from the ashes.