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The Journalist as Entrepreneur: Response to Disruption Confronting Austerity European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp Vienna, March 2014 Jane B. Singer.

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Presentation on theme: "The Journalist as Entrepreneur: Response to Disruption Confronting Austerity European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp Vienna, March 2014 Jane B. Singer."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Journalist as Entrepreneur: Response to Disruption Confronting Austerity European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp Vienna, March 2014 Jane B.

2 ‘This used to be a newsroom’ Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio, USA (Photo from CJR)

3 ‘EJ’ as response to disruption As we all well know...  Experienced journalists have lost or left their jobs.  New journalists have struggled to find jobs at all – or been disappointed (financially, professionally or both) by the ones they have found.  An open-access, low-cost platform beckons. Necessity (including financial necessity) being the mother of invention, growing numbers of journalists have opted to create their own journalistic enterprises. The spirit is commendable. The challenges are many.

4 The entrepreneurial journalist This person needs skills that include, but go well beyond, those of the typical freelancer. The entrepreneur is a pitchman / woman, fundraiser, idea incubator, ad exec, circulation manager, market analyst and more. Many ‘EJs’ report that less than half their time is spent doing journalistic work.

5 Shifts in practice and perception Challenges include, among others:  Developing, creating and sustaining economically viable content ideas.  Luring (and keeping) audiences for them – audiences that must be actively nurtured, continuously engaged and often (given inevitably limited staff) enabled / encouraged to create meaningful content themselves.  … while identifying and obtaining revenue sources, then making wise spending calls.  … yet maintaining editorial autonomy.

6 Journalist  entrepreneur Few of those tasks fit traditional practices and skill sets. More fundamentally, they tend to clash with perceptions about social roles and norms. I’ll take just a few of them …

7 Audiences Traditional journalism  Aggregated, faceless, little / no meaningful contact  Relationships? Job of marketing, circulation staffs  Distinct from, and segregated from, advertisers Entrepreneurial journalism  Clear and precise understanding of audience  Personal contact, attention, response  Generally niche audience, must be actively courted  Audience members often active contributors

8 Advertisers Traditional journalism  Autonomy norms forbid contact, influence  Making money? Job of ad, marketing staffs  Keeping advertisers sweet? So Not My Job Entrepreneurial journalism  Overlap between advertisers, audiences  Advertisers also must be courted, nurtured  Privacy concerns related to audience info  Personal financial stake, need to recoup costs  Yet autonomy norms haven’t gone away …

9 Content Traditional journalism  Rests on professional skills, norms, resources  Near-exclusive focus on editorial content value  For news media, central civic role perception  Competition is knowable and finite Entrepreneurial journalism  Institutional resource advantages disappear  Demand for journalistic skills may not be high  Niche audiences seek customization, connections  Differentiation from current offerings, options  Competition is unknowable and ever-expanding

10 Activities Traditional journalism:  Reporting, writing, editing  Expanded a bit in response to Internet  Expanded a bit more in response to social media Entrepreneurial journalism:  All those b-school things you never learned  … And probably disdained  New collaboration and partnerships become vital

11 Resources Traditional journalism:  Emphasis on human resources: skills, experience  … Resources within newsroom or obtained by it  … Facilitated by connection to established brand  Physical, financial resources rarely on j-radar Entrepreneurial journalism:  Skills and experience get you only so far  … And key aspects of experience are missing  Relationships of various kinds are key resource

12 Costs Traditional journalism:  Newsroom big (typically biggest) expense  Someone else worried about profit and loss  … But underlying model stable, well-understood Entrepreneurial journalism:  News creation likely still biggest expense  What else costs money and how much?  … and where will the money come from?  Massive instability throughout the sector  Bottom line: coming in > going out, or bye-bye

13 Revenue Traditional journalism:  Is there enough money to pay my salary? Good.  Normative injunctions related to money exchange  General lack of expertise on fiscal matters Entrepreneurial journalism:  Money is now your (chief) concern  For what, exactly, are people willing to pay?  A single revenue stream is seldom enough  Everyone is chasing the same (few) sources  Again, ‘separation of church, state’ still key to trust

14 Cultural change (again) The rise of entrepreneurial journalism – driven by necessity as much as opportunity, fueled by technological, economic, social and professional forces – poses now-familiar existential questions:  Who am I (and what value do I offer)?  What do I do (and what is my social role)?  Which relationships must I nurture?  What defines success (and survival)?  What rewards might I reasonably expect? Obviously, the answers (maybe even the questions) are different today than in the past.

15 Rethinking journalism Can journalists turn themselves into publishers in more than the literal sense of the term – without losing their souls and / or their shirts? Yes, certainly. But many are ill-equipped to succeed. Neither newsrooms nor j-schools nor (correct me if I’m wrong) industry organizations are providing or promoting the skills or mind sets needed to be a sustainable innovator. succeed Time for yet another rethink …

16 The Journalist as Entrepreneur: What do you think? Confronting Austerity European Federation of Journalists / GPA-djp Vienna, March 2014 Jane B. Singer


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