Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

It’s not content – it’s ‘experience’ (and red shoes)

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 19, 2010

How do journalists become entrepreneurial?

That was the big question at last night’s Future of News meetup in Central London. Around 50 journalists, students, academics and other entrepreneurs came to hear first hand how to set up a news business from those who’ve done it themselves.

(Update #1: Journalist Patrick Smith has written a far more comprehensive review of the event for – you can read it by clicking here.)

(Update #2: The West Midlands Future of News Meetup is hosting a similar event tomorrow night as part of JEEECampall the details are here!)

Emi Gal, the founder of Brainient a website which helps people make money from online video, spoke first. At the age of 24 he is already a serial entrepreneur having set up three businesses so far.

He was followed by Tony Heywood and Nick Saalfield, who run a free service for anyone who dreams of setting up their own business but doesn’t know where to start. As a journalist himself Nick was sure journalists can set up their own businesses and make it work.

It’s not content, it’s experience

One of the big sticking points of the night was the seeming void between doing the sort of journalism that matters (human rights, for example) and serving a market who’ll pay for that content.

Deborah Burnello, founder of (and now spoke of her ambition to set up a news website, but couldn’t see who would pay for important, worthy news stories.

Nick was clear: content does not make money. “The days of being paid by the word a dead” he told the room. Instead, journalists must create an experience for their audience – a really enjoyable experience which they’ll come back for, and pay for.

We don’t all go crazy for Apple products because they’re technically better than Windows – but because the whole user experience is so much better.

How do we make the experience better online? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Don’t wait – go!

Brainient founder Emi Gal’s big advice is not to hang around. “Don’t wait for your product to be perfect” he says – you can’t get it right until it’s out there.

Photo Credit: Jon Slattery

Emi also reiterated the importance of collaborating with others. If you’re not good at sales (as many journalists won’t be) find a partner who is. If you want to create a web platform but don’t know the first thing about Ruby or HTML, find someone who does.

Emi, who funded Brainient through winning Seedcamp‘s startup competition, says venture capital (VC) is a good way to get cash – if you can find a good investor. Nick and Tony though reckon ‘Angel investors’ – individuals with spare cash and up for an adventure – are the way to go, and less likely to end up in disaster.

…oh, and the shoes

Emi, Tony and Nick agreed on one thing: get good shoes. Or some item of clothing that makes you stand out – people (potential investors, collaborators) are more likely to remember you that way.

If you want to know more about entrepreneurship and journalism, you don’t have to wait long – Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism goes on sale tomorrow!