Posts about newbiznews

Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum at CUNY

Here are the courses that make up the new Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum at CUNY. We plan to offer these courses this spring–to our own students and to midcareer journalists. Once approved by the state, we’ll award a certificate and then an MA in entrepreneurial journalism.

This Monday evening the 29th at 6p, we’ll hold an information session at the school–219 W. 40th St. in NY–and we’ll stream it for folks who can’t be there. Details here. We’re accepting applications now–admissions addresses here.

We’ll teach a course in business basics in the media context and a course in new business models for news–which is really, I’ve discovered, a course about disruption (whether you cause it or have to cope with it). Students will create their own business plans and incubate them in a third course. We’ll give students an immersion in relevant technologies to inform their plans. And students will work on an apprenticeship in a New York startup to be exposed to startup and engineering culture. I’m delighted to be teaching these courses with my colleague, Jeremy Caplan, and others we’re recruiting in various specialties.

Students may leave starting their own businesses and making their own jobs. They may work for startups. They may bring entrepreneurship into legacy companies. And legacy companies may send them to the program. In my Entrepreneurial Journalism class at CUNY — an inspiration for this program — we have a few midcareer professionals in the class this term and I’m finding the mix with students to be good. So we plan to continue that mix in the larger program.

This educational program is one of the three legs of the stool that makes up the new Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. We will also continue research on new business models for news. We are also starting in incubator and investment fund. The research will inform the students businesses and those in the incubator and identify new opportunities we can help start. The courses we create for this program will also bring in resources to help teach and support businesses in the incubator. And having more services in the incubator will help the students with their businesses. That’s the idea.

At the end of the day, we hope to bring more innovation and innovators to journalism. That’s the hope.

Here are the syllabi (don’t ya love that word?) for the courses. If you would prefer, you can see them on Google Docs here.

CUNY Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum

Whither the Times magazine?

MediaWeek, under its new boss, Michael Wolff, asked a bunch of us what we’d advise the New York Times Magazines’ new boss to do. Here was my full answer:

Their Q: The New York Times Magazine has a new editor, Hugo Lindgren. If you could make one suggestion for how he could improve the Times Magazine what would it be?

My A: Ask me whether I care. I don’t pick up the magazine. I do read stories out of it when I see links and discussion. The magazine — like the newspaper — is unbundled. Or to pick another metaphor: its content is atomized, and then some of the free atoms find their way into new molecules not through editors’ packaging but through readers’ recommendations.

Other real (read: standalone) magazines at least have some worldview and community of shared interest gathered around them. The Times Magazine has a weaker identity and weaker ties; it’s not a magazine so much as a slick paper on which to print more Times stories.

So why have a magazine? Slick advertising. So I’d put the reporting where it belongs — in the paper — and let the fluffy speciality magazines with good endemic ad categories — fashion, travel, home — take over.

Or here’s another idea: Turn the magazine into a curation of great content of the week from the web. Become a molecule-maker.

New molecules

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger asked for help with his view of the fourth estate’s separation (outside the U.S.) into three sub-estates: legacy media, public media, our media (my wording). My response:

Pardon my metaphors:

I had a bunch of public broadcasters from Sweden at my school last week. They’re quite successful—audience is up; marketshare is up—and so it may be difficult for them to feel the urgency of the winds of change and move with them. I suggested that we are only beginning to feel the storm (/metaphor) and I argued that if we are coming out the other side of what some Danish researchers call (metaphor) the Gutenberg Parenthesis then our concepts of media and our consequent cognition of society will change profoundly over years yet to come.

In her amazing history of Gutenberg’s influence, Elizabeth Einstenstein argues that it took 50 years for books to come into their own and not merely copy the scribes and another 50 years or so for the impact of the press to become clear. The Gutenberg Parenthesis team argues that we are entering a period of confusion as great as the one Gutenberg caused. Granted, we are operating in internet years, not Gutenberg years. Still, we’ve only seen the beginning. And so I asked the Swedes to pull back and consider their role more broadly.

So I urged the Swedes to think of media as the essential tool of publicness and one that is no longer mediated. And so in their role of being publicly supported (but not — I’ll grant to them and to the BBC their fig leaves — tax-supported) then I suggested the best thing they could do is to enable and protect the voice of the public. They could curate, train, promote, and collaborate with new people using new tools in new ways, for example. They could establish platforms that make that possible and networks that help make it sustainable. They could see it as their role to support a lively, healthy ecosystem and all of its members, including not only the new kids but also the struggling legacy media (by that view, I’ve long argued that the BBC should make it its mission to use its powerful megaphone to promote and support the best of journalism and media in the UK, no matter who makes it; that is a public good).

All of which is to say that I think your trilogy-view of media today is correct but temporary. We are still in the phase when the printers are copying the scribes’ fonts and content. New wine, old skins. We are also still in a phase of separating the old-media folks from the new-media folks, the public from the private, and for that matter, the media (the journalists) from the public. I think those distinctions must melt away when we move past the stage of copying the copyists and invent entirely new forms.

We see content as that which we make. Google sees content everywhere. Twitter creates content even Twitter doesn’t understand yet (our useless chatter has real value as a predictor of movies’ success). Blippy creates a transparent marketplace for stuff. Google Goggles with Foursquare and Yelp and Facebook and Google Maps and the devices we carry that are always connected and location-aware and us-aware force us to rethink our definitions of both local and news. The Guardian turns data into news by collaborating with the people formerly known as its audience. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

So I don’t think we’re yet at a stage of stasis where we can find three estates out of the fourth estate and count on the tensions among them to support a new dynamic of media.

Overlaying this view, I think we are entering a phase in the economy in which industries — filled with closed, centralized corporations that own their means of production or distribution — are replaced by ecosystems — filled with entities that must collaborate and cooperate and complement each other to find efficiencies and through those efficiencies profitability and sustainability. So the idea that your three sub-estates will compete won’t be sustainable; they will have to specialize and then collaborate and as that occurs there may still be separations of roles — e.g., creator v. curator, platform v. network, local v. national — but they are new separations.

What you are identifying is the start of an atomization of media. But I see those atoms reforming into new molecules. (/metalphor)

Wrong battlefield

It’s kinda touching that Rupert Murdoch’s loyal lieutenants are trying to entertain the boss by starting an old-fashioned newspaper war (old-fashioned modifies newspaper). But it’s also ever-more revealing of their worldview.

And of course, the best way to declare a war is to declare it over and claim victory. “Nationally, there’s no contest now,” Robert Thomson, editor of the Wall Street Journal, said, according to the AP, “We’re more than twice as big as The New York Times. They’re not a serious competitor.” The AP goes on to tell us that the “Journal sold an average of about 2 million copies nationwide on weekends compared with the Times’ 900,000.”

OK, but that’s half the story. It’s more like 10 percent of the story. For now shift to the future, the web, and comScore tells us that in July, The Times reached 43.6 million people online vs. the Journal’s 16.1 million. By the time you add in pass-around readers for the paper and de-dupe the same readers for print and online, those numbers might change, but the moral to the story doesn’t.

The New York Times has roughly two and a half times more readers than the Journal. That translates to two and a half times more influence, two and a half times more relationships, a two-and-a-half-time bigger brand.

Murdoch has been willing to lose tens of millions of dollars on his New York Post for one reason: he wants a “bully pulpit” (his words.) He has certainly turned FoxNews into just that. So its kind of sad, if you’re feeling empathetic, that his Journal is losing so to The Times. That’s why Thomson doth protest too much.

That is the price of the pay wall. It may be a price worth paying. The New York Times is, of course, piling up bricks for its wall now. But off in the open field, no bricks in sight, stands Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger with 37 million readers online wondering whether he could soon run the largest newspaper site in the world.

Now I argue these days that brands are no longer magnets; they become labels when you find content through search, algorithms, and peers’ links. Murdoch cut off the algorithms when he pulled his Times of London out of Google News just as he put it behind the wall. That was not a business decision but an emotional but. But I’m even willing to stipulate that his pay wall could work — work in the sense that he gets satisfactory revenue (whatever the definition of that is) from readers rather than from advertisers.

But the real price is growth. It won’t grow. I see that not as victory in the war for the biggest bully pulpit — for the bragging rights to talking to more people. I see that as surrender.

Regulating sex and speech

Let me start with a disclosure: I hope to think that Craig Newmark is a friend. He can be as hard for me to read as James Joyce or C++. But I know him as a decent and genuine man who believes that he is bringing a service to millions of people, saving them billions of dollars that used to go to overpriced, monopolistic middlemen. He doesn’t do it to get rich (I’ve driven by his office and home and they ain’t palaces), which is precisely what bedevils those old middlemen; I’ve watched them try to break him and prove he’s greedy, too, and I’ve watched them fail. When I last had coffee with Craig in San Francisco (on the craigslist tab, I should disclose), he talked about the number of free ads craigslist has given people in terms of economic philanthropy, which is also what he said to my students at CUNY two years ago.

These days, Craig and the company he founded are being demonized in courts of political and media power as sex peddlers. The service — which Craig is quick to point out, he does not run; he means it when he says he is its customer-service representative — just took down its adult ads in the U.S., replacing the link with the word “censored.”

The argument has been that craigslist ads are used to serve human sex trafficking. Except craigslist has been openly and consistently helping police in their efforts to arrest traffickers. The adult ads were paid and more trackable than free personals on craigslist or ads in many other places online and in print. Now the trade, whatever its scale, is only more distributed. Gawker has a guide to post-craigslist paid sex and craigslist has pointed out that even eBay has sold party favors of another sort.

So why are government and media going after craigslist? The same reason, I think, that media and government in, for example, Germany are demonizing Google (even as the German people give Google its biggest market share anywhere in the world). They’re going after the disruptors, the biggest disruptors in sight.

Since craigslist and the internet have existed, newspaper classified revenue has fallen by $13 billion a year, leaving that money in the pockets of former advertiser-customers. Since Google and the internet have existed, many more billions have left traditional media as Google offered their former ad customers a better deal.

The New York Times today belittles craigslist’s censorship, calling it a “stunt” and “ploy” and labeling as “screeds” craisglist CEO Jim Buckmaster’s defenses of the service—and of free speech—against attorneys general and against ratings-starved CNN ambushing Craig. Nowhere does The Times disclose its own dead dog in this hunt, its loss of billions in classified revenue (in blogs, we’d be expected to, eh?). But the paper does acknowledge that the law is on craigslist’s side even if its enforcers are not and that this is a matter of free speech, which should put The Times and its journalists on craigslist’s side as well.

But they’re not. I’m not suggesting conspiracy; I rarely do. But I do see old power structures huddling together against the cold breath of technologists bringing change. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last summer, I asked Google’s Eric Schmidt whether we were going through a larger restructuring than a mere crisis. He replied that he wished we were but cautioned that, as I wrote then, too much of our resource, people, government help and attention go to the big, old legacy companies rather than supporting innovation (read: disruption). I would have translated that into the idea that instead of bailing out GM and subsidizing and artificially, temporarily propping up house and car prices, government should invest in bringing broadband to every door. I would have hoped that Schmidt might have agreed. Sadly, even he is now listing to the legacy. Google, the big boy, plays with other big boys.

But craigslist is still the weird kid. At the end of its story, The Times quotes someone saying that “Craigslist is not your typical company in the sense that it doesn’t seem to be exclusively motivated by profit.” What a strange, inscrutable child, it is. It’s easier to attack a company that doesn’t act like a company. And it’s easier to attack free speech and liberty when they — and dollars — are spent on nasty sex.

But this is a fight of old establishment power — business, media, and political — against new and disruptive technologists who are writing new rules. This is also a fight over freedom of speech. Last night, I woke up on the couch to see the end of The People vs. Larry Flynt. In this country, we protect bad speech to protect all speech.

Yes, prostitution is illegal. It long has been — the oldest laws cover the oldest profession — but the authorities have been blinking at ads for *cough* escort services in newspapers of many sorts for many years (here are the Village Voice’s adult ads). I’m headed to Berlin and Amsterdam in a few weeks, where prostitution is legal and regulated. Beyond exploitation of children — which every civilized person on earth abhors; as Mike Masnick says, the real enemy, not discussed in all this, is the trafficker — do we really want and need government regulating sex among free-willed adults? But that’s not the issue here. If it were, those attorneys general and CNN and The Times would be going after all those services Gawker lists and some newspapers, still.

No, the issue is disruption.

The birth of TBD?

Jim Brady, daddy of metro/hyperlocal startup TBD.com, sent me pictures Tim Windsor sent him from our summit on new business models for news at CUNY two years ago. In the session on the new newsroom, Jim got up and started sketching the structure and size — little knowing, as he said in testimony before the FTC a while ago, that he’d end up building it at TBD.com. Jim at the whiteboard:

IMG_0104

The detail. Note the reference to a blog network of experts — which TBD wisely built.

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For the history books. If there still will be books.

Welcome, TBD.com

Listening in to most of TBD.com’s press preview today, I was kvelling like a proud uncle. I’m so delighted to see Jim Brady and company create so many of the things I’ve wishing for in journalism. Ken Doctor beat me to a great list of many of those things.

What makes me happiest is that it recognizes that it’s part of an ecosystem and a network and it benefits the more it helps the members of that cloud succeed.

It is for-profit. If journalism isn’t profitable, it’s sunk. So that is God’s work, not the devil’s.

It recognizes the value and ethic of the link. It will do what it does best and link to there rest, damnit. DWYDBALTTR (in Twitter, @greglinch pronounces that “dwid-ball-ter-ing”).

It’s small and efficient and can be right-sized for the new efficient and targeted media landscape.

It’s collaborative in so many ways. It recognizes that the people formerly known as the audience are their best distributors. It recognizes that no story is perfect and the public often can help complete a story and make it better and more correct and complete.

When he testified before the FTC (or was it the FCC? so many hearings; they all sound alike) a few months ago, TBD founder Jim Brady said he recalled standing in a conference room at CUNY a bit more than a year ago whiteboarding what the new newsroom would look like, little imagining that he’d be building that very newsroom. He is.

I’m rooting for him. We all must. Yes, even the Washington Post should, for TBD will show the way to new means, methods, and efficiencies. They will succeed and fail and show us all new ways to make journalism sustainable and to build a new and much stronger collaborative relationship with the communities we serve.

Godspeed, TBD.

Whither magazines?

Three people I respect a great deal now lead the big magazine companies: David Carey (ex Condé) at Hearst, Bob Sauerberg at Condé, and now Jack Griffin at Time Inc. — and I’ll add Justin Smith at Atlantic.

It’s a big challenge to head a magazine company these days (witness the sales of Newsweek and TV Guide for a buck each). Circulation is plummeting; costs are soaring; advertising competition is killing.

But I still say that magazines have unique value in media as the centers of communities of information and interest. They just have to act like it. My advice to my friends at the top:

1. Ignore print. Enable community. Yes, print is where the revenue is today. But it’s only going to shrink. Preserving print — and the past — is no strategy for the future. The physical costs of production and distribution are killing. The marketing cost of subscriber acquisition and churn is hellish. The editorial costs of maintaining gloss are wasteful if not sinful. So concentrate instead on your relationships with your like-minded souls among the people formerly known as your audience. In a social (post-brand, post-search) market, these magazines still have tremendous if very perishable value if you know how to unlock it because their people care about the same stuff. Enable communities to build and meet and create value around their interests, especially those that are specialized — SI and EW will be worth more than Time, Jack. EW may look like a bad business today (it pains me to say that, as its Dad) and it may be way too late to the web party, but I still think there’s one last chance to enable fans to congregate and create. Enable them to do what they want to do and follow along. Before you follow the money, follow the passion.

2. Avoid Steve Jobs’ siren call. The iPad is not, not your salvation. Oh, it’s nice and elegant but your editors are leading you over the lemmings’ cliff because they think the public wants the world packaged just as they used to package it. The link robbed them of that control forever. And that’s great news to you because you can now listen to your customers, your readers, instead of your editors. You can escape the cost and tyranny of editorial ego and determine what the community wants most. Fine, have apps. But the winner in your war, friends, will be the one who breaks out of the old models and scales to enable a huge community instead of a small audience.

3. Build new brands. Don’t just preserve the old brands. Enable a thousand entrepreneurs to build a thousand new brands. Curate them. Train them. Equip them (Flips for all!). Promote them. Sell them. That’s the key to scale.

4. Build new networks. Oh, I know, magazine people make fun of Glam because it’s not as controlled as magazine brands but they’re blind to do so. Glam grew to four times iVillage’s size by enabling a network of many independently owned sites and brands. That’s the way you can grow and scale even as your old, print brands shrink. So imagine a huge, scalable network of like-minded sites and brands you don’t have to build and pay for that you can sell.

5. Commerce. I don’t think you’ll succeed at charging readers for content. As Google taught media and government, we now operate in an economy of abundance, not scarcity. So trying to convince readers to pay premium prices for content when content is anybody’s game is a fool’s paradise. But I do think you can sell merchandise to the people formerly known as readers as long as you take on the skills of merchandiser. And that ain’t editors.

6. Cut costs. Yes, I know, Felix Dennis made his career on that call and look where it got him. But there’s no doubt that growth will not come from fancy offices and car services and wardrobe allowances. So cut the hell out of your costs. Move to Jersey.

7. Be any-media. Glossy paper is expensive. Pixels are cheap.

8. Get local. This is the hard one but it’s a goldmine if you can figure out where the entrance is. Look at how ESPN is going local. Every one of your magazine brands (well, except Time) can find local audiences, local advertisers, local efficiency if you can scale advertising sales with new partners.

I used to love magazines. I bought piles of them every week. I don’t buy them anymore. I don’t need them anymore. I don’t miss them. Sorry but it’s true. Be honest and imagine life without any of your magazine brands. It’s not hard. It’s easy. So imagine instead what would matter: relationships. That’s the key to your future.

What makes me hope that these four people might be able to pull this off is that they aren’t just advertising snake-oil salesmen. They understand value. Now they have to find it and enable it and I think the key to that is people, not content or paper or apps.