Ink-stained entrepreneurs

Ink-stained entrepreneurs
: It hit me a few months ago, when I was working on a proposal for the Citizens’ Media Center:

For the first time in memory, a journalism student can act like an entrepreneur. Before, if you wanted to write or publish, you had to go to the guy who owned the printing press (or the broadcast tower). Now, thanks to easy, inexpensive publishing tools (read: blogs) tied to history’s best distribution network (the Internet), anyone can start publishing to the world and even make a business of it (see Gawker or PaidContent).

All of this is a long intro to a comment Rafat Ali left on the Northwestern/Advance blog investigating hyperlocal citizens’ media:

I do think besides the potential of citizen media, it is time for journalism education to wake up to the facts.

It is time that journalism schools taught some real skills just beyond the actual writing and reporting…

It would be great if a cultural movement based on blogs leads to entry-level journalist starting their own sites/blogs which develop into independent and profitable ventures. Maybe only a few of these would end up becoming into a sustainable enterprise, but I do believe this is the moment for the individual journalist-entrepreneur. The so-called “Free Agent Nation”, a concept which became very trendy during the 90s boom, could finally become a reality for journalists. What is needed is the passion to cover an area you want to cover, and some amount of businesss acumen. Or at least plug into a business infrastructure (of the kind Jeff has written about elsewhere before) that would allow them to develop great editorial products…

Yet more for the Bloggercon session on Making Blogs Make Money.

  • If I’m not mistaken, Marx called this “ownership of the means of production.”

  • Rob

    Say what you want about Matt Drudge, but he is an excellent example of somebody who used the internet in just the way you described.
    You may not like what he does or how he does it, but he has taken a previously unknown medium and taken it to the cutting edge.

  • Rob,
    Yes, except for all the libel, Drudge is great.

  • A lot of young writers, artists and journos are very enterprising- at least that’s been my experience. And the blog can be a perfefct tool for getting the word out. A good example would be Aimee over at
    With my website hundreds, sometimes thousands of new people discover my work every day. A good percentage of of them become long-term fans. And with their blogs linking everything in sight, their ability to tell other people about me and other people increases by a hundredfold.
    Think about it. 10 years ago when you read a really good book, you’d tell what, 3-4 people about per week, maybe? Now even a smallish blog can tell a thousand times that many people.
    And becasue the blog’s “voice” is so trusted, its recommedations are 10, 50 times as meaningful, ergo effective, as coneventional PR/media.
    You do the math, suddenly the blog’s ability to deliver vs conventional media is actually not that much smaller.

  • MattS-
    “All the libel”??? I remember the one instance with Sidney Blumenthal – prominently retracted as I recall.
    Considering the errors in the big media for which they are unrepentant – or at least not which are retracted in the least visible manner, Drudge isn’t so bad at all.

  • bob

    I took a journalism course last year. The professor was aware of the emergence of blogs, but hadn’t gotten around to teaching about independent publishing. (The course was generalized, so this would have been appropriate.)
    As self-designated representatives of the people, the press has special access. Government, corporations, entertainment, etc. But as citizens media progesses, ordinary citizens are just beginning to get a glimpse of that power. Educators would do well to instruct students on how to best take advantage of their own “special” status.
    Of course, that’s most useful for those of us who aren’t so good at figuring these things out on our own!

  • Andrew X

    Of course, I have always been of a mind that an entire “school” for the purpose of teaching jounalism shoud be razed to the ground and salted, and we would all be better off.
    If you want to be a journalist, then study, study, study….. history, economics, philosophy, history, science, business, history, literature, civics….. did I forget history? (OK, my own bias ;-)
    Point is, you don’t need a damn school to learn how to talk to people…. you need to learn what the hell you are talking about before you start the talking.
    The management of a newsroom (i.e. managing editing) is certainly worthy of specialized classes, but that is about it.
    Failure to acknowledge the above I believe will lend itself to indoctrination rather than jouralism, to students who want to “make a difference”, which is by definition advocacy, rather than practice journalism, and to a media full of prominent people who know the merest surface gloss of issues they are reporting on… such as the Middle East or a President’s economic program. And now blogs rush in.
    And that may be what is killing big journalism as much as anything.

  • I think you are under valuing the power that cold type tools and then online databases did to enable entrepreneurs for decades. I have started newspapers, trade journals, business journals, newsletters, published legislative and regulatory guides and brought them to the web, all from figuring out what an audience wanted to read and what advertisers and/or subscribers wanted and would pay for. Several of my businesses were built around information that was free but I got people to pay for synthesizing, tracking relationships, and offering analysis; the value was all in the packaging for a particular market.
    I haven’t gotten the hang of where the sustanable value is in weblogs; Shel Israel worries that they will kill zines and newsletters like Conferenza. But the opportunity has always been there for the lone entrepreneurial journalist in niche publishing.