Posts about cuny

Signs of hope

David Carr wrote another good and hopeful column today (this, I told him, was his burning bush column). I’m delighted that it ended with a brief report on his jurying in my entrepreneurial journalism course at CUNY:

Meanwhile, journalism schools are no longer content just to teach the inverted pyramid. A few weeks ago, I was at CUNY’s graduate school of journalism to help judge presentations from more than a dozen teams of young media entrepreneurs. There were some clunkers, as there always are, but there were also some scary good, real-world proposals from students who don’t have to think out of the box because they were never in one to begin with.

I tried to be courteous and deferential, partly out of a small fear that I may work for one of them someday. There are worse places to end up.

The entrepreneurial journalism class report

Tweet: Report from my entrepreneurial journalism class: Cause for optimism

Wednesday was the best day of my year: the jurying for my entrepreneurial journalism class at CUNY. The jury awarded four businesses a total of $57,000 (thanks to a grant from the McCormick Foundation). Here’s how it works.

Because one of them could be the next Google – or Condé Nast or ESPN or AP or, better yet, something entirely new – I won’t reveal too many specifics. One of the products is a platform for news assignments I hope we’ll help deploy soon; another a mobile sports application; another a creative, algorithmic answer to filter failure; and the fourth – the one that is already public – a clever omnimedia project about the provenance of fashion called ClosetTour.

It was a tough decision for the jury. Other impressive ideas were a human – rather than algorithmic – answer to filter failure (aka editing); a specialized women’s travel service; a specialized local real estate service; a cool food idea; two business-to-business ideas; one hyperlocal/hyperinterest site; one service for a local Hispanic ecosystem; a service for NGOs; a commercial service for artists; and one idea whose three-word elevator pitch is so clear I’d give it away if I said more than one word (“news”).

There are some key insights in the students’ ideas. A few were built around the need not just to create content but to curate it. Most are highly targeted. Some saw the potential in specialized local services. Some saw the need to go mobile to service the public. Some are international. Some are multimedia. A few saw the need to make news fun, others to make news useful. Some realized that news will be created by new people in new relationships with media. You’ll be interested to know that some plan to charge users (and I endorsed those plans, unlike Mr. Murdoch’s).

This was a great class. My favorite part of teaching it is holding our board meetings, when I work with them one-on-one on every aspect of their plans: elevator pitch (utterly critic, or jurors and customers will be lost); needs statement (why does the world need this thing?); market analysis (whom are you serving?); market research (aka reporting); competitive analysis; product plan; revenue plan; marketing/distribution plan; operations (cost) plan; launch plan; and the ask (how much they want from the jury and what they’ll do with it).

Because I was out for a few weeks after my surgery, we started holding our meetings on Skype video, which works quite well, and continued in person at my whiteboard (how were companies started before dry-erase?). While I was out, friends Joan Feeney and Steven Johnson filled in, along with my associate for the class, Dan Shanoff (who not only knows journalism and the web but – bonus points – has an MBA). All three were on the jury, so they saw the incredible transformation the students and their ideas – not to mention their presentations and confidence – undergo over the term.

This is my third year teaching the class and a few things are predictable: Some high proportion of students will come into class declaring that they don’t need to worry about all this business and revenue stuff because they’ll be not-for-profit. They also tend to want to do good for its own sake. I beat their altruistic, communistic instincts out of them and turn them into passionate capitalists, emphasizing that no matter where the money goes at the end of the day, they’d better have money left over – aka profit. Their enterprises and their journalism must be sustainable or they and their businesses won’t survive. I don’t do this just to corrupt them but to give them – especially these days – a strong dose of hard reality. My not-so-hidden agenda is to teach journalists business so we can be better stewards of the business.

The jury this year was again stellar: in addition to those above, David Carr of the NYT; Fred Graver, comedy writer and entrepreneur (you should see his business plans); Charlie O’Donnell, VC from First Capital; Mark Potts, founder of GrowthSpur; Betsy Morgan, former CEO of Huffington Post; Lee DeBoer, entrepreneur; Upendra Shardanand, founder of Daylife; John Paton, CEO of Impremedia; Peter Hauck, Nancy Wang, Jeff Mignon, and Jennifer McFadden, my colleagues on the New Business Models for News Project; Elizabeth Osder, consultant and teacher.

The students get four minutes to present their ideas, the jury four minutes for questions. After almost three hours, we retire to the jury room (wine-and-cheese equipped) and the deliberations are worth the price of serving. Some complained that one student’s idea – a content idea – wasn’t really a business, that someone should just hire the student to make it a book or a site or a show. David Carr issued a winning defense of the strategy, arguing that journalists won’t all be hired; they need to make their own way to the sea (he always talks in metaphor); that is, they will need to make their own work into businesses to make it sustainable. He also urged this student not to turn out something in just one medium but to make it take advantage of every bit of functionality that will be on the mythical tablet we’ll all soon be using. He won the day.

We discuss the ideas and the students’ innovation and potential to succeed (do the have enough resources and the right skills?), identifying where the jurors see the most heat until we have, by a process of painful elimination, landed on the likely recipients. Then we debate how much money they actually need.

Finally, importantly, jurors volunteer to mentor various businesses. CUNY provides an incubator to help them succeed. I will work with the students to agree on benchmarks they must meet to receive the next piece of funding.

Two years ago, the students who won grants got jobs instead, though one student in particular made use of her proposal by bringing it into the major paper where she works. That’s one of the goals of the class and program: to infuse legacy institutions with innovation and entrepreneurship. Last year, three students won grants and they are all starting their businesses now. Next year, I’ll report back on the progress of this year’s winners.

* * *

The morning before the jurying, I was invited to meet with some of the lions of journalism – former top execs at the AP and Dow Jones and various metro papers – to present and discuss our New Business Models for News. My message: that the future is entrepreneurial not institutional, that news will come from ecosystems instead of corporations, that the transition may be too painfully impossible for their former companies. I invited them to leave their meeting and come to join our jury. I wish they had.

The starting point for an entrepreneur, I told them, is not what has been but what can be. In some cases, the opportunity they see will be to undercut the old order – ‘craiglisting’ content next. In some cases, the opportunity they see will be to do journalism in new ways that were never possible before we had this incredible linking and collaboration platform. I spent my career working with the institutions and I still will. But now I favor working with the entrepreneurs. I believe they are our future. It’s that future I saw Wednesday afternoon.

This is why I am going to devote myself more and more to entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY. More on that later.

: AND: Here‘s Dan Shanoff’s post on the class and here‘s Nancy Wang’s.

New Business Models for News talk

Here’s my talk on CUNY’s New Business Models for News at our summit in New York:

Jeff Jarvis on New Business Models for News 2009 from CUNY Grad School of Journalism on Vimeo.

And here’s my latest Prezi:

The balance shifts

At yesterday’s New Business Models for (Local) News summit at CUNY, I ran what I called a reverse panel with big media folks – NY Times, Washington Post, Gannett, Star-Ledger, Impremedia, Politico – sitting up front but ordered to listen to the wishes and needs of the people in the room. I threatened to cover the big guys’ mouths with duct tape. (A few of them seemed to honestly fear I would do that. I do need to investigate this reputation I’ve garnered.)

The putative war between mainstream media and bloggers has been declared over again and again (myself, I reported a truce three and a half years ago… oh, well). So I won’t act as there aren’t still the lone snipers in the mountains. Bloggers from medium-sized cities had plenty of complaints about the disrespect they see from their local medium-sized media outlets.

But importantly, I did see a shift in the balance of power yesterday. The big media guys on this reverse panel made it crystal clear that they not only respect but need the work of the bloggers/citizens/little-media-guys/whatever you choose to call them. The big guys acknowledged openly that they are shrinking and can no longer even pretend that they can do it all themselves.

For their part, the bloggers also made it clear that they respect and thus want attention – promotion and credit – from the big guys.

Group hug.

We are at various fulcrum points. The big, old media outlets can no longer act as if they have no problems; it’s obvious, they do. The upstarts are beginning to catch a glimmer of critical mass; we see blogs starting up all over and there are lots of new news organizations – most of them not-for-profit – rising in San Diego, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Austin; now they are joined by the for-profit local Politico. Even if you disagree with me that the future of news is entrepreneurial, there’s now no denying there is a future there.

And so the room was filled with people who were, each in his or her own way, building that future and they all recognized that they have to work together to do so. The future of news is also an ecosystem. That’s what became apparent yesterday and that, for me, was the highlight of the event.

* * *

We’re doing our post-mortems on the event at CUNY to figure out what to do better next time – and it’s clear there is a need for more of these gatherings here in New York and, we hope, across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, bringing together builders. We heard a lot from the room about what they want next: More best practices from the kind of real experience that fed our models…. More practical advice for making money…. More education…. I’ll come back with additional thoughts after my thorough-going exhaustion wears off.

My personal thanks to the team at CUNY – led by Peter Hauck, Jennifer McFadden, and Matt Sollars – for doing great work in the models and the event and to the funders who made it possible: The MacArthur Foundation funded the events (and the prior summit led directly to a request to do the work we presented at this one); the Knight Foundation funded the work on our models and presentation of them at the Aspen Institute; the McCormick Foundation is funding ongoing work on new business models; and the Carnegie Corporation is funding work on hyperlocal labs. We’re also grateful to Mignon Media – Nancy Wang and Jeff Mignon – for their incredible work on the models; David Cohn for his tireless efforts helping us organize the events; Borrell Associates for their data and advice; and all the companies and individuals who participated yesterday. And we want to thank Ted Mann of inJersey/Gannett and Jim Schachter of The New York Times and their colleagues for helping to organize the event. Thanks.

Local blog and business models event at CUNY

I’m putting out a call for local bloggers within traveling distance from New York – and for journalists who’ve left their jobs or are thinking about leaving to start local news blogs – to attend a series of workshops at CUNY on Nov. 11.

The first half of the day, we’ll be presenting and discussing the New Business Models for News Project projections for the local news ecosystem (earlier presented at a Knight Foundation-sponsored event at the Aspen Institute). In the second half of the day, we will have workshops and discussions aimed at improving local sites’ businesses: setting up; serving ads; selling ads; marketing; managing communities; and more – plus presentations by companies working to help these sites, including Outside.in Growthspur, Prism, Google, Addify, PaperG, Spot.us, and others. We will have a mix of bloggers, editors, publishers, entrepreneurs, investors, and companies working in the new local news ecosystem. Gannett New Jersey and The New York Times are contributing to the effort.

Space is limited so right now we’re just putting out the call for bloggers and journalists who have or plan to have local sites to give them priority. A preemptive apology to those for whom we don’t have room; we’ll do our best to accommodate everyone we can. Know also that we’ll be streaming the day. If you’d like an invite, please email David Cohn (david@spot.us), who’s kind enough to help organize this, our third CUNY conference on the topic, and who’s a helluva lot better organized than I am. Please make sure to give us a link to your site.

A poor craftsman blames others’ tools

Compare these two columns about Twitter: one by Mike DeArmond, a sports hack in Kansas City, and one by Roger Cohen in The New York Times. They are each frustrated that Twitter doesn’t fit into their set-in-concrete view of what they do and what journalism is – and how others fit in.

The sports guy’s column is, of course, the sillier:

Let’s quit tweet, tweet, tweeting like the birdbrains do. I don’t care what your friend had for lunch. . . .

I really don’t object to the message so much as the medium. . . .

I became a journalist because I love words. The way they can be used to paint an image, to link observation and explanation.

It is why I think it is wonderful to write about how some questions are so rambling that they climb the wall, scoot around a corner, take a stop in the men’s restroom, and only then arrive at their intended point.

You can’t do that with Twitter. You’re limited to 140 characters. And most people waste even those.

Now Cohen:

Twitter’s pitch is “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” That’s what it does — up to a point. It’s many things, including a formidable alerting system for a breaking story; a means of organization; a monitor of global interest levels (Iran trended highest for weeks until Michael Jackson’s death) and of media performance; a bank of essential links; a rich archive; and a community (“Twitter is my best friend.”)

But is it journalism? No. In fact journalism in many ways is the antithesis of the “Here Comes Everybody” — Clay Shirky’s good phrase — deluge of raw material that new social media deliver. For journalism is distillation. It is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.

It comes into being only through an organizing intelligence, an organizing sensibility. It depends on form, an unfashionable little word, without which significance is lost to chaos. As Aristotle suggested more than two millennia ago, form requires a beginning and middle and end. It demands unity of theme. Journalism cuts through the atwitter state to thematic coherence.

In each case, The Journalist is confronted with something new and if it doesn’t fit in with their world and worldview, they find reasons to reject it, to diminish it, to make it the province of others, not The Journalist – because it’s The Journalist who is empowered to say what journalism is. DeArmond’s going for laughs, Cohen for profundity, but they’re each only showing that they are not imaginative enough to recognize the power that comes from a new tool – no, not the tool but the connection to the people who are using it. I’d never let my students get away with that. I always try to get them to look at a tool and see how it can be used to improve journalism, not just violate its age-old dictates.

In these screeds, we also get a glimpse of these Journalists’ definitions of journalism. I say that news was made into a product by the necessities and limitations of its means of production and distribution in print and broadcast. News is properly a process, I believe. Cohen says, no, it must have a beginning, middle, and end, a narrative he sets, an order he gives, a chaos he rejects. He says elsewhere in his column that presence is necessary to do journalism; he thus says that it takes a reporter to report, that news without the journalist him or herself bearing witness to it is not real news. He puts The Journalist at the center of news. I say the journalist is the servant of news. I tell my students to add journalistic value to what is already being spread – reporting, fact-checking, perspective, answers – but recognize that the news is there with or without them. It is gathered and spread by the people who see it and need it with new tools, like Twitter. Like it or not.

: LATER: But at the same time, here‘s The Times’ David Pogue using Twitter to talk with the public to do his journalism.

New Business Models for News Project

The New Business Models for News Project is now well underway at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Here’s the blog and below is the post explaining our work:

We at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism believe that the discussion about the future of journalism — as newspapers and other news organizations find their business rapidly eroding around them — needs to be informed by facts, figures, and business specifics. That is why we created the New Business Models for News Project.

The project is researching best practices in the business of journalism online, gathering new ideas and experiments in revenue for news. We will build complete business models to share with the industry and with the journalists, communities, entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors who will create the future of news.

The project is funded by the Knight and McCormick Foundations. Two earlier conferences leading up to the work of the project were funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The work of the project’s first phase will be presented at the Aspen Institute in August and will be shared, publicly and in progress, on this site.

Our work begins with the assumption that there will be a market demand for quality journalism, watchdogging those in power, and that the market will find a way to meet that demand. The question so many are asking is how. We will attempt to answer that by projecting the future of news in a metropolitan area, concentrating on four perspectives — hyperlocal, the new news organization, publicly supported journalism, and the framework to support this new news economy as a whole.

We will use as our model market a hypothetical top 25 metro area in the U.S. where the sole daily newspaper has ceased publication. In short: We are asking what will fill the void. We posit that no single company or product will do that. Instead, an ecosystem made up of many players operating under many models and motives will emerge. In all cases, we are agnostic as to who owns and operates these entities: legacy or new companies, large or small. In that context, we will examine:

* The optimal hyperlocal (town or neighborhood) blog or site. We will look at how to maximize revenue to such sites, whether they are run by sole proprietors, larger startups, or established media companies. This will include helping sites provide the best and most valuable service to local advertisers; establishing local networks of fellow hyperlocal sites to increase sales and revenue opportunities; larger metro-wide networks; and exploring other revenue opportunities, such as paid models and commerce. We will look at what these sites need to succeed, such as networks, promotion by aggregators, and technology.

* The new news organization. Even after a market loses its daily paper, we believe there is an opportunity for a new news organization to be reconstituted around key journalistic roles serving the metro-area. We will project the scale of such an enterprise: its audience and revenue yielding its resources and functions: reporting, aggregation/curation, perhaps organizing the broader community and its news efforts. How many employees can a profitable, journalism-centered business support and what can and should they do? What is its relationship with other players in the ecosystem?

* Publicly supported journalism. We do not believe that any single savior– foundation, government, device, or massive public contribution — will rescue an existing news organization as it operates today from the crush of the market. But we do believe that publicly supported journalism — that is, from individuals, foundations, and perhaps companies — can play a role in this model city’s news ecosystem. This could take the form of a local Pro Publica or of crowdsourced funding through a platform such as Spot.US or of an expansion of public broadcasting’s role. The key question we will answer is what level of support will likely be available — projecting from current efforts locally — and what those resources could provide.

* The ecosystem’s framework. We will examine the supporting infrastructure this ecosystem will likely need, bringing together independent players to reach critical mass so they can recognize greater market value (in, for example, advertising networks and in mutual promotion) and greater efficiency (in, for example, technology platforms, the ability to create collaborative projects, training in journalism and sales, search-engine optimization…). Once again, we are agnostic to ownership: These functions could come from a single company (which is how we will present the model); they also could be provided by a legacy player or they could be offered by various players. To quote Mark Potts at one of our CUNY conferences, “You may want to be small, but to succeed at being small, you probably have to be part of something big.”

In addition, the project will gather and also propose a catalog of revenue models, working with those who are building systems to support paid content; interviewing local advertisers to learn more about their needs; talking with sites in the U.S. and elsewhere to learn what is working and not working for them; examining the possibilities for more unusual revenue streams such as e-commerce.

After this work is well underway and after the Aspen report in August, we plan to extend the project’s work to examine more business models, such as national and international content exchanges; interest-based sites and networks;

The project is headed at CUNY by Prof. Jeff Jarvis, head of the interactive program. Peter Hauck is project director, working with Jennifer McFadden, business analyst; business researchers Kate Albert, Gary Frangipane, Noah Xifr, Darshan Dedhia, Frank DiBartolo, and Senem Coskun of Baruch’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at the Zicklin School of Business; and reporters Matthew Sollars and Damian Ghigliotty, both graduates of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. We are grateful to the Field Center’s Edward Rogoff and Monica Dean for their support. We are also happy to tell you that Jeff Mignon and Nancy Wang of Mignon Media are also working with us.

Interactive teaching position at CUNY

Here‘s a job listing for a new tenure-track teaching position in the interactive department I head at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. I’ll spare you the sales pitch. We’re doing many exciting things at the school and it is growing robustly. Here are a few posts I’ve written about what we’re doing.

But first: Please do NOT use my email address. Instead, send your letter and resume – and links to your blog and online, interactive work – to this address and this address only: interactive_search@journalism.cuny.edu. (Thanks.)