Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Video: top trends in journalism in 2011

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Online Video, studio .fu by Adam Westbrook on January 5, 2011

The New Year is here and that means it’s time to look ahead at some of the big trends in journalism in the 12 months ahead!

This year I’ve brought in some of the brightest young minds in journalism today, including Alex Wood, Tracy Boyer, Patrick Smith and Philip John for their suggestions – and the 11th prediction this year has been suggested by one of you guys!

Enjoy – and if you think I’ve missed anything good out, or got something completely wrong, then the comments box is right downstairs.

Happy New Year!

 

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Online ad revenue: what journalists are getting wrong

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 9, 2010

Image credit: DavidDMuir (cc)

How much money has your website made you recently?

For all but the lucky ones, the figure is rarely enough to buy a latte, let alone support a family. And for all but the smart ones, the figure is usually from Google Adwords revenue.

Here’s the crunch: journalists running their own websites, whether they’re hyperlocal blogs,  online magazines or video sites are getting it wrong. They think there’s only one way to make money from a website – advertising. It’s how newspapers do it, so why should they think any different?

Actually, running a website for profit isn’t about building an audience of millions and raking in the ad revenue. For most of us, even the top niche bloggers, your audience will be in the thousands, not the millions. And that just doesn’t pay.

Doing it right

I was kindly invited to speak London’s prestigious Frontline Club this week, on how to make it as a freelancer in the modern age. Speaking alongside me was the inspiring Deborah Bonello, a journalist who actually has made money from her website, without using ad revenue at all.

In 2007, realising she wasn’t doing the journalism she dreamed of, she packed her bags and moved to Mexico, to carry out what she called “an experiment in digital journalism”. She set up MexicoReporter.com, a website which would be the foundation of her business. Starting life as a free wordpress blog (like this one) Deborah spent months filling it with content, covering stories all over the country.

It became hugely popular with the English speaking expats in Mexico, of which Deborah estimated there are more than a million from the USA alone.

If you ask Deborah how much she made from ad revenue, chances are the amount would be small. But if you ask her how much her website has made her: she’d answer ‘a lot’. By putting loads of free content online she had a strong portfolio to show editors when she approached them with stories. Before long she was getting commissions, and shortly after a retainer from the LA Times.

Now based in London, she’s landed a great gig with the Financial Times. In other words, her website has made her thousands.

And it’s likely she wouldn’t have had the same luck without MexicoReporter.com.

How to really make money from your website

The secret is this: your website is a vehicle for making money elsewhere, not an automatic money making machine on its own.

01. promotion: keep your website regularly updated with examples of your work. And keep producing content, even if it’s without a commission. It pays dividends when you’re offered work or a job off the back of your portfolio. Deborah’s work came because she updated MexicoReporter.com even though she had no-one to pitch to.

02. expertise: maintain a targeted, well promoted, blog which establishes you as an expert in your field. The money comes when you’re offered work because you can prove you know what you’re talking about. I have become both a lecturer and a trainer because of this blog, for example.

03. affiliate: be clever with your links. Affiliate links are dedicated hyperlinks to a product which give you a cut of the money if that product is sold. Reviewing a book, CD or anything else available on Amazon.com? Use an affiliate link to share the revenue. Many companies offer affiliate deals to bloggers.

04. sell: use your website as a vehicle to sell products, targeted around your niche. If you specialise in a certain type of journalism, or Google Analytics tells you your audience are a certain type of person, can you create an online store so they buy direct from you? Tracey Boyer has opened a store on her blog Innovative Interactivity with just that in mind, and Media Storm run a store too.

05. and yes, adverts: but you can be clever with adverts too. The UK based service Addiply created by Rick Waghorn solves some of the problems with Google Ads by offering locally targeted adverts for local based websites. Local bloggers say it’s bringing in results.

A combination of two or more of these things could bring in more money than the Google Ads cheque could. If more journalists looked beyond advertising as their sole business model, we’d move so much faster towards a financial base for the future of journalism.

Journalism posts: a summary IV

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 31, 2010

Your last chance to get “Newsgathering For Hyperlocal Websites” on the cheap!

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 16, 2010

As promised, the ebook Newsgathering For Hyperlocal Websites, will move up to it’s original price of £7.99/~$13.00 at midnight on Sunday GMT.

That means you’ve got about 24 hours to buy it at a bargainous discounted price of £4.99/~$8.00

If you’ve not heard the buzz, it’s a 40 page e-book written specifically for anyone starting up a hyperlocal website. It’s packed full of advice on finding local stories and turning your blog into a real source for local news, adding value to your readers’ lives. Here’s a list of chapters.

As well as some lovely reviews, there’s been lots of positive feedback from journalists and bloggers at the News:rewired conference in London this week. But there’s also another big reason to get this book while it’s still so cheap.

Already I have a new edition planned, which will be rolled out  later in 2010 to keep up with new developments in this fast moving field. But rather than release a whole new book (old school, or what?) I’ll be releasing new chapters like a software upgrade.

That means if you’ve already got the book you’ll get a chance to buy these new sections for as little as £1, depending on what they’re worth, a week before they go into the main book.

Everyone else will have to buy the whole book from scratch.

Click here to buy (Paypal only)

So don’t delay. It’s only a fiver!  But having said that, if you can only spare a fiver, donate it instead to the DEC Haiti appeal – if you’re in the UK, text “GIVE” to 70077 or click here; in the US text “Haiti” to 90999.

A new ebook for hyperlocal bloggers

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 11, 2010

The numbers of excellent hyperlocal websites in the UK and the US bloomed in 2009, from The Lichfield Blog, Bournville Village, Kings Cross Environment and Pits n Pots in the UK; to CrossCut, Red Bank Green and the Ann Arbor Chronicle in the US.

But will they fill the void left by shrinking, or dying, local newspapers?

That is the challenge laid down to them; and if hyperlocal blogs and websites are to have any lasting resonance as a new way of doing news, they will have to live up that, and move beyond simply aggregating other content and hosting a listings site.

In other words, they must become newsgathering operations in themselves: finding stories, checking facts, holding powers to account and sharing the results with their community of readers.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a new ebook, out today, to help all hyperlocal bloggers big or small, young or old, get the news that matters to their community. It’s called…

Newsgathering For Hyperlocal Websites

What’s in it?

In 40 pages it covers everything from getting news from council agendas and press releases, finding out about crime, keeping on top of your local sport team and submitting Freedom of Information requests.

In it are the tools you’ll need to create a one-person newsroom, which gets all the important press releases and has all the important contacts. You’ll find out how to create and manage an effective news diary which means you rarely miss a big story.

I explain why you don’t need to pay for expensive news wires to get confirmation of big national news stories on your patch, and show you step-by-step how to submit an effective Freedom of Information request. The end of the book contains an appendix of templates you can print off and use to get started.

It’s based on my years as a local reporter, at times single-handedly managing a news desk which covered no fewer than three counties at once. I learned the hard way how to report on local news, and it’s all in Newsgathering For Hyperlocal Websites.

Click here to get a free peek at the contents (pdf)

Who should buy it?

This book is ideal for anyone who is setting up a hyperlocal website, or is thinking about it. All the information I have shared I have done so with a small hyperlocal outfit in mind: there is no other journalism guide book like it. Journalism students will find it a great simple breakdown of the newsgathering operation.

It is written chiefly for the British hyperlocal blogger, and although the terms will differ in other countries, the techniques are applicable in the US, Europe and beyond.

Who shouldn’t buy it?

If you’re a journalist with years of local newsgathering under your belt, you will probably know most of it already. However, if you are not used to covering a patch/beat single-handedly you will find the contents useful, no matter how long you’ve been in the trade.

How do I get it?

I’m publishing it with an awesome discounted price of £4.99 (~$8.00/EUR5.50). This will last for 7 days at which point it’ll go up to its normal price, so buy quick to get the good deal!

Click here to get your mitts on one!

Any feedback on the first edition will be much appreciated: I’ll bear everything in mind for future editions!

Update: hyperlocal blogger Philip John over at JournalLocal has reviewed the book.

10 trends in journalism in 2010

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 15, 2009

It’s that time of year again…

After a turbulent year in the industry, I’ve had a good think and put together my top 10 trends for journalism for 2010, wrapped in a big shiny positive outlook. But rather than roll out another list, I thought I’d be a bit different and crack out some video. Enjoy!

And is there anything I’ve missed? Add it in the comments box!

Thinking of a journalism start-up? Here’s a checklist

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 5, 2009

If the future of journalism is indeed entrepreneurial, we have to start thinking with a business hat on.

It’s a big change in mentality for some journalists. I’ve been to several events and meetings recently where hacks have insisted people will have to pay for news “because journalists have to eat”.

This is upside-down thinking. People don’t buy iPhones because Steve Jobs needs to eat. They buy them because they are an innovative product which satisfies a demand people are willing to pay for.

And so it must be if journalists are to be entrepreneurs. I’ve put together a list of criteria a new business idea might need to satisfy to see it become successful. I don’t think a successful business will need to satisfy all of them, or maybe even 50%. But ignoring these questions means another financial failure…

News start-up checklist

  1. Is it a new idea?

  2. Does it have a defined target audience?

  3. Does it provide niche (i.e. hyperlocal) content?

  4. Does it satisfy a desire that is not being fulfilled by someone else?

  5. Or does it do something better (faster, cheaper, more effectively) than someone else?

  6. Does it actually have income potential, or will it rely on funding?

  7. Does it use the power of crowd-sourcing/community?

  8. Would it be fulfilling for journalists to work for?

  9. Does it publish/exist on more than one platform?

  10. If it has content, is it sharable?

  11. Does it require a lot of money to run?

  12. Does it have boot-strapping potential?

  13. Does it scale?

  14. Does it fulfill a public service?

  15. Is it a legally sound idea? What about copyright?

  16. Would it appeal to venture capitalists, angel investors?

  17. And…does it have a cool name?

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I think if you answer these questions at the early stages, you’ll have a greater chance of your start up succeeding. What it says is a sustainable business – journalism or otherwise – begins with a solid well-defined customer base.

You need to know who these customers are, and be really clear about why you are providing something they can’t get elsewhere. Innocent Smoothies was begun by three British students in 1999 who realised there was a demand for healthy fruit smoothies, which wasn’t being satisfied by anyone else. It now has a revenue of £128m.

US start-up “incubator” Y-Combinator is looking for new media business ideas which embrace this form of thinking:

What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money—as print media once did—instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?

Add more to the list in the comments below if you have any. And while you’re here, read the comments of one reader on an earlier blog entry. Some interesting criticism of the notion journalism is entrepreneurial at all…

Future of Journalism presentation

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 15, 2009

I was very kindly asked recently by marketing consulant Jon Moss (@jonmoss) to give a presentation at the increasingly popular Hull Digital event in Hull. The subject: the intimidating title “The Future of Journalism”.

I dusted off my Open Office and Powerpoint skills and put together a presentation back in June. Off the back of that, I was asked to give the same presentation at HumberMUD, a multimedia meetup, also in Hull.

It is now online for you to enjoy, critique and add too.

As I was talking mainly to non journalists I wanted to break the complicated (and ever changing) story right down.  It is also not comprehensive; if I had room I would like to have talked more about Networked Journalism and Hyper-local websites.

Hull and the Humber area has a growing and very talented digital community – if you are in the area I strongly recommend getting involved either at Hull Digital or HumberMUD.

And later this year the inaugural Hull Digital Live event’s taking place -with the just confirmed key note speaker Rory Cellan-Jones. Awesome!

Update: you can now watch my original presentation on the Hull Digital website – or part one here: