Think about the best article you read last year. The hard hitting, excellently researched, insightfully written article that you just couldn't put down. Now think about how much money you spent to read it. Was it in a magazine you subscribe to? Or perhaps a website that you accessed and read for free? For every conversation anyone starts about the future of journalism, the question that seems to follow closely behind is: what does the new business model for journalism needs to be in a world where the average citizen is increasingly expecting journalism to be a service provided for free (or at least, subsidized by someone else).
Over the past few years, every time I spoke at a gathering of local newspaper professionals at the American Press Institute (API) or participated in a journalist-centric event from an organization like the South Asian Journalism Association (SAJA), the signs of worry in the industry were clear. A solution has started to emerge that is not only making waves in the field of journalism today – but also has the potential to reinvent the way that we consume and share media with one another.
Entrepreneurial Journalism describes a field of media where journalism is the underlying discipline upon which to create content-based businesses and services that can make money. Rather than the popular view of journalism as a type of objective professional public service to be provided to the citizenry of the world – entrepreneurial journalism offers the chance to think of content creation in business terms. As it gains popularity, this field also has the potential to change the way that we find and consume information, and change our world in the process. Here are a few ways it is already happening:
- A New Generation Of Entrepreneurial Journalists. Predictably, the idea of entrepreneurial journalism found a rapid home among forward thinking Professors of Journalism who have started to incorporate this into their coursework at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Last year, CUNY announced the first 4-semester dedicated Entrepreneurial Journalism program as part of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. Author and Professor Jeff Jarvis* leads that program, and also founded a wiki where other educators teaching similar programs could gather to collaborate and share curriculum or ideas. This combined with visionary educators like Columbia School of Journalism's Sree Sreenivasan who has been teaching journalism students social media skills for years will lead to a new generation of voices in journalism who are trained to think entrepreneurially and embrace social media.
- New Ideas Influencing Older Media Entities To Evolve. In the middle of 2010, a brilliant experimental journalism site called True/Slant was purchased by Forbes. In his final blog post after the sale, founder Michael Roston shared that what made the site unique was the arrangement they created with 300 writers who were incentivized to create content directly for their audience instead of pandering to an editorial filter. This new editorial model thrived on the site and demonstrated to the world that there was a valid place for this type of journalism – and a place that a "traditional" media organization like Forbes saw great value in.
- Startups Create Excitement And Pioneer New Forms Of Media. The Poynter Promise Prize was one of the first of what will likely be several competition style idea gathering efforts to bring some of the most pioneering ideas in entrepreneurial journalism to the attention of many. As more of these startup-style ideas enter into the discussions about the future of journalism, they will unlock new forms of content creation and new business models that the entire industry will eventually look towards.
- Overlaps With Big Social Media Trends Such As Content Curation. One of the biggest trends that is already shaping the future of marketing is the focus on content curation as a way to provide value to consumers and share an expertise without necessarily creating content. Aside from creating content as parts of new stand alone organizations, more and more individuals with journalism backgrounds will be sought after by companies to create and organize content on their behalf. "Journalists-In-Residence" will become a part of large companies, opening up yet another entrepreneurial career path for those with journalism training.
This is a link to an interesting panel discussion from the Carnegie Journalism Educators Summit last year about the future of Entrepreneurial Journalism as well, for those who are seeking more context and information.
*Note: Best wishes to Jeff for a speedy recovery, as he recently shared on his blog that he is now once again fighting cancer. His work and thinking have been a big inspiration for me and many others, so I wish him the best in his new battle and am sure he'll emerge on top as he has before.