Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Five reasons to enter myNewsBiz

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 4, 2011

The countdown to the closing of entries to myNewsBiz has begun – there’s now just four days left to enter your business idea with the chance of winning £1000.

The competition is open to:

  • any student studying at a UK university
  • any recent gradate from a UK university (summer 2010)

Five reasons to enter myNewsBiz – now!

.01 You’ll get feedback from four of the UK’s most experienced journalist-entrepreneurs: have you seen our panel of judges? We’ve got a group of journalists with decades of collective experience starting businesses. They know what makes a good business, and they’ll be able to give you some sharp feedback on your idea.

.02 It’s a reason to start thinking… use myNewsBiz as an excuse to sit down with a pen, and draw up some business ideas. You just won’t do it otherwise, will you? If you don’t know where to start, the application form gets you asking all the right questions.

.03 .…and a reason to start doing but more importantly, this is a unique opportunity to actually turn an idea – a vague, scribbled down apparition – into something real, something tangible. Your idea for a hyperlocal website means jack until you publish your first article on the completed website.

.04 It’ll make you more employable yes, you heard right! Never mind being an entrepreneur for the rest of your life. Drawing up a business idea, entering myNewsBiz, and making it a reality, will actually make you more employable. Why? Because there are plenty of other journalism students & graduates like you. Very few have used their initiative to start a magazine, design an iPhone app or start a photojournalism business on the side. This initiative is rare, and therefore valuable.

.05 It’s free…oh and did I mention the £1000 cash prize? Yes, entry is free. Click here to get hold of a form.

We’ve already had a good chunk of applications, but there’s room for more.

If you’re a student at a UK university, or you graduated last summer you have no excuse not to enter. And you have just four days left to do it.

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Revenue streams for your news business: part 1

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 21, 2011

 

Image credit: JelleS on Flickr

A two-parter this week: I’ll be explaining 10 revenue streams journalists can use: five today, and five on Thursday.

OK so you might have a brilliant idea for a new news business. You have the collaborators. You’ve got the website. You’ve got the content…

…but you’ve got to make it pay right?

There’s less than two weeks for students in the UK to enter myNewsBiz, the journalism enterprise competition. One of the questions entrants have to answer on their entry form is explaining how their business might make money: where will the revenue come from? To help in that endeavour, I’ve assembled these 10 possible ways to bring in cash.

They are just ideas, and the most successful businesses pick’n’mix from these plus several others. If there are any glaring omissions, let me know in the comments box!

10 ideas for revenue streams for your news business (part 1)

.01 mailing list

It’s an oft quoted maxim among online content creators that “the money’s in the mailing list“. Never mind creating a sharp looking online magazine – if your content isn’t flying straight into peoples’ inboxes then it has a far weaker chance of being viewed. Building a mailing lists means you have a clearly defined group of people interested in your journalism – and therefore they’re more likely to open the email.

Once you’ve built your mailing list up with great content you can look for sponsorship from organisations who’ll appreciate their advert going to inboxes and not just online. They then get a banner at the top of your newsletter.

I’ve mentioned TheBusinessDesk on here before: a daily newsletter of business news to their readers is one of the core things they create. There are plenty of services, like MailChimp who manage lists for you.

.02 other businesses

Here’s another maxim to learn from the business-heads out there: “the best customers are other businesses“. Why? Well, you can charge businesses more than you can charge an individual for something; but also businesses tend to be easier to deal with, and you’re less likely to get complaints.

So how do news businesses find revenue streams from other businesses? Well, there are several ways which pop to mind:

B2B journalism: Business-to-Business publications have mostly done OK during the recession. Their secret is they provide really good journalism to specific industries: their readers aren’t passing individuals, but (often) big corporations with lots of money to spend – who need the information you provide.

Another option is to act as an agency: in this line think of Getty, Demotix and of course, the news wires. Again, they’re building long term relationships with news organisations and charging thousands, not mere pounds.

If you still fancy creating a popular magazine, then there are ways to capture business revenue too. Treat it as a ‘shop-window‘ for a service business. For example, if you love web design as well as journalism, you can run a web-design business off the back of the magazine, with the mag’s awesome design bringing you attention and clients.

.03 partnerships

On a similar theme, another source of revenue could be the ‘partnership’. Here you are collaborating with a whole range of organisations on a specific project, and it’s very suited to the service business model.

We’re already seeing multimedia producers like VII Photography and MediaStorm talk about partnerships with organisations, either as a funder or a publishing partner. Here’s Stephen Mayes of VII, describing the idea in the British Journal of Photography in 2010:

“Certainly the magazines are still in the mix, but now more as print distribution partners rather than as exclusive clients (with additional distribution through TV and online partners), often co-funded by another party and supported separately by technology partners with access to story-knowledge being supplied by yet other people…The line-up shifts for each project, and as each new partner comes on board the opportunities to do interesting work and to generate income multiply.”

I guess it’s not hugely different to ‘clients’ but instead of finding one ‘client’ to pay you to do some journalism, you’re designing a project and getting involvement & funding from several organisations. This means you’re more driven by the project and not who’s paying for it.

.04 affiliates

Martin Lewis: MoneySavingExpert.com

Affiliation is where we get a bit close to the sales/infomercial area of business I think many of us would prefer to avoid. Still, there’s big (and relatively easy) money to be made in affiliates so don’t write it off.

How does it work? Well, you push your readers to someone else’s products, and take a share of every sale made. It has potential in a niche market, because if you can build up a significant, loyal fan-base around a specific area, related businesses will want their product in front of those people. Affiliate deals can nab you between 10-30% of every sale.

Sounds a bit dodgy. Can it be done in journalism? Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com reckons so: his hugely popular website is funded almost totally by affiliate arrangements. But he is very transparent about when a product is affiliated, and separates it from the editorial content: crucially, he can still criticise a company even if they’re an affiliate.

.05 subscriptions

This revenue stream is very dependent on the type of news product you’re out to create, but in the right circumstances you can get people to pay to read your content. Here’s a must-read articles on how media outlets are using subscriptions.

As newspapers are learning, the key is to avoid ‘news’ content – that’s a commodity now, and very few people will pay for it. But even if you’re writing for a very specific niche, you have to work hard to create something people will fork out for. Targeting the B2B market will give you a better shot.

Is it worth it with hardly any readers? Well, do the maths: if you create really good content for a specific audience, of say, 5,000 readers, that is so good, they’ll be happy paying £5 a month to access it – that’s £300,000 in the bank. A legacy news organisation can’t sustain that, but that’s enough cash to pay yourself and a few others a decent salary. This is where being small is important.

On Thursday: five more revenue streams – plus the most valuable one of all.

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.

Why your news business idea doesn’t have to be original

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 24, 2011

OK, so you’re busy thinking of ideas for a journalism startup – hopefully, so you can enter myNewsBiz and win £1000. Or maybe because you’re being brave and want to create your own business.

You’ve read lots of blogs about the future of news, multimedia, startups and tech. And you’re buzzing around with ideas like “innovative” “unique” “remarkable” “world-changing”, “the next big thing”. In other words, you’re searching for an original idea.

That puts a lot of pressure on the grey matter doesn’t it. The good news is there’s really no such thing as an original idea – nor indeed is there a need for one.

Inventions invented many times

There’s a famous (untrue) myth that the Commissioner for the US Patent Office Charles Duell back in 1902 said “everything that can be invented, has been invented.” A look back through the history books shows, firstly, that inventions have come thick and fast since then; but secondly, that some of the greatest inventions were actually invented several times.

The typewriter was invented more than 50 times, the first time way back in 1714. The lightbulb was famously patented by nearly a dozen scientists, before Thomas Edison’s lamp took hold. Even audio recording, originally invented by a Frenchman Charles Cros, was made famous by Thomas Edison in 1877, a year before Cros could get his idea to the patent office.

So: don’t worry about creating something new out of thin air.

The foundation of a great business idea is that it serves a need, fills a gap or cures a pain. For example, someone’s already come up with the idea of starting a multimedia production company in New York. Doesn’t mean I can’t do the same in London, right?

In fact, some of the most successful businesses come from improving on a product or service that already exists. James Dyson didn’t invent the vacuum cleaner, but he made it a whole lot better.

We all thought Mark Zuckerberg had social networking all sown-up; but then along came Twitter.

Four ways to improve on someone else’s idea*

  1. Do something old in a new way which saves your customer time or money.
  2. Do something better or faster than the competition.
  3. Do the same thing but with better quality of service or more promises (‘or your money back!’)
  4. Do the same thing but cheaper…although top tip: you don’t want to compete on price.

To find out more about what makes a good business idea, check out these videos – and then make sure you enter myNewsBiz!

*adapted from The Beermat Entrepreneur by Mike Southon & Chris West

Five things that make a great news business idea

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 31, 2011

Entries for myNewsBiz, the student journalism enterprise competition are open and we are starting to get early entries through.

If you haven’t heard of it, myNewsBiz is open to any undergraduate or postgraduate journalism student at a UK university. There’s a prize of £1000 for the best new idea for a journalism business, be it a product, like a magazine, or a service. A runner up gets £500.

But what makes a good business idea?

That’s a difficult question, if you’ve never thought about starting a business until now. If you don’t know where to begin, here are five different starting places for your search for that winning business idea.

.01 Fill a gap

Any concept (entrepreneurial or otherwise) has to service a need that a large enough group of people have, in order to survive and thrive. So a good place to start is to ask ‘is there a product or service which is not being provided right now?

Murdoch’s much anticipated iPad only newspaper The Daily can be viewed in these terms. The iPad’s been around for just over a year, and yes, there are plenty of magazines and publishers with their own iPad apps…but there is no single dedicated iPad news product. It’s a gap. And News International appear to be trying to fill it.

.02 Scratch an itch

Image credit: corrieb on Flickr

Great business ideas ‘scratch an itch’, by which we mean solving a problem that a group of people have. The best place to identify an itch is on your own body. What’s bugging you right now? What do you see which can be done faster? Cheaper? More accurately? More locally or more beautifully?

TheBusinessDesk, a successful online news startup in the UK, clearly scratched an itch its founders had: there was no good source for regional business & finance news. They scratched their own itch, and in doing so created a thriving business.

Scratching your own itch has a big advantage: because it’s your itch, you are best placed to tell whether your solution is scratching it properly.

.03 Improve something

If that doesn’t work, why not try improving on someone else’s idea?

There are plenty of magazines, websites, services we all use which get us grumbling. “This coverage stinks!” “Their infographics are rubbish” “They could have done that website so much better!”

If there’s something out there which is not up to scratch – make your own, improved, version.

That’s part of the thinking behind studio .fu, my online video production company. There are lots of independent video producers out there, but I could see lots of things they were doing wrong.

I improved their offering by just focusing on online video, and by steering clear of an office or (any) staff, I can offer the same thing at a much more affordable rate.

.04 Begin with you

Instead of looking for a business idea straight away, start with you and your strengths and passions.

What do you love doing? If you could wake up tomorrow morning and commit one act of journalism, what would it be? Designing? Writing? Data interrogation?

Once you’ve identified that, you want to wrap a business around it. Look for markets for your passion, and build a business from there. This philosophy sums up the approach taken in my book Next Generation Journalist, which starts with a look at your real interests.

After all, there’s no point in pursuing a business idea you’re not interested in, just because it looks like a workable idea. I have a brilliant idea for an environmentally friendly kettle. But am I going to make it? No. Because manufacturing, retail and, err, kettles, don’t do it for me right now.

.05 Start making something – right now

Image credit: David Haygarth on Flickr

Finally, once you’ve got an idea – or maybe if you still don’t – start creating, right away.

Ideas are one-a-penny, but they don’t count for anything until you’ve turned it into something tangible. So if you’ve got an idea for an online magazine, get the webspace and domain, upload a WordPress theme and get creating.

Why? Because you’ll only know if your idea is any good once it’s real.

If you don’t have an idea yet, then start creating anyway. Whatever it is you feel like. If you think you’d like to start a business making infographics but aren’t sure what gap it would fill or itch it would scratch, keep going. Start designing infographics and put them online. See what the feedback is. Are people biting? This way you can develop your business idea organically.

Only once you’re making something can you know whether it’s got legs.

Remember the deadline for entries for myNewsBiz is the 1st of April 2011 – so you’ve still got plenty of time to put something together.

And in February we’re publishing awesome interviews with some of the top journalist-entrepreneurs out there, packed with advice on how to get your news business off the ground!