Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

What every J-entrepreneur can learn from a single mum

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 12, 2009

Meet Lauren Luke, a 27 year old single mum from South Shields near Newcastle, UK.

She dropped out of school at 16 and became a teen mum.

In 2007 she started video blogging from her home, when her son was asleep upstairs. Little more than two years later she is an in-demand fashion expert on TV and in print, and has launched her own make-up range. Hell, she’s even been featured in Time Magazine.

All pretty amazing, but not unique.

Lauren’s success story stands out because she is the perfect example of how to turn demand into money: and journalists thinking of  start-ups should get their pens out.

The elusive niche…

“I hope what I do makes people more confident to experiment.”

There’s loads of talk about this right now. ‘Journalism’s future is in niche and hyper-local’ we’re told. And that’s probably true.

But simply having a niche isn’t enough. As with all business, your niche must be in demand.

And Lauren’s niche is certainly that. Unwittingly, she tapped into a massive market of women who wanted practical, accessible help with their make-up. Her videos did just that. Her Youtube channel, Panacea81, has been viewed more than 8,600,000 thousand times, and has nearly 400,000 subscribers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently “build something people want” and Lauren’s a true example of that.

So, if you’re planning a news start-up (and you don’t want it to rely on grants or donations) you need to ask yourself “is there a demand for this?”

…a position of authority…

“I just think there is a standard that is set by the beauty industry that is unobtainable by the vast majority of us normal people who pay for it. We are all entitled to have products that work and bring out the best in us and create looks that we can actually wear”

Lauren can teach us a thing or two about building a position of authority. Does Lauren have a qualification in make-up? No. Has she done make-up for the stars? Nope. Does she even work in a salon? Nope. In fact, when she started the videos,  she was working for a taxi firm.

But this hasn’t stopped her becoming an expert, a person of authority on the subject. It’s one of the great things about the internet age. Career guru Jonathan Fields says that’s tough for some but great for everyone else:

“…for an increasing number of career paths, demonstrable mastery and/or expert positioning regardless of pedigree are the keys to success. That may scare and anger a whole generation of people who came up under a different set of rules, but…this phenomenon spells opportunity.”

So: it’s possible to build yourself into a respected expert, by publishing high quality content.

…extra products…

“The book will feature a range of celebrity looks, everyday looks for the office, as well as casual and bridal looks.”

8 million hits does not necessarily mean money. But Lauren’s business sense shines through again: recognising demand she has turned her knowledge (which she gives away for free) into tangible products. She has published a book, and launched a new make-up line.

For journalism this produces a host of opportunities. You might not sell your content, but can you sell the platform? Release iPhone apps? Run courses? Sell guides? Don’t just think of making money from your words (because you won’t!)

…and ambition.

“I want to make a huge change to the beauty industry”

The final key Lauren clearly possesses is ambition. She was not content with just becoming a youtube star. She wanted to release a make up brand & publish a book. And now she’s got the big players in her sights.

From make-up, to Yoga, to music…it is possible to make a good living doing what you love. Why should journalism be any different?

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!