A few months back, I went full time with AdYapper, an early stage startup in the ad space. Since around that time, I’ve been thinking of reasons why I think journalists could make good entrepreneurs.
Why is this important? Newsrooms continue to lay off reporters, and starting a business could be a great alternative to a path in the communications field, which is where many journalists go once they’re done in the news business.
This is not a new concept. (In fact, we’ve blogged about it recently.) Since my time at Chicago Tribune/Tribune Company, I’ve been urging reporters to think of themselves as entrepreneurs within their beats, and within their newsrooms; however, I never really thought of just why I think the very act of reporting and writing is entrepreneurial. So I came up with a few reasons:
Expertise: The very practice of journalism requires knowledge of a space other than journalism. Other than writing and reporting. And if there’s something a reporter doesn’t know, they learn about it.
Hustle: This one really goes without saying.
Contacts: Journalists have the right to ask anyone any question, at any time. (Whether they respond is another story entirely.) Through it all, journalists develop great rolodexes, and if they’re good, respect — and a good working relationship — from and among their readers and sources.
I put out a call within my network, asking why they thought reporters could be good entrepreneurs. I got one answer: “Journalists can make great entrepreneurs. Our skill sets are tuned to detect and address relevant problems,” says Jason Goodrich, a former editor at the Chicago Tribune and now CEO of Shortlist. “We get to the ‘why’ by talking with people and analyzing the data. Maybe above all else, journalists tend to possess the right mix of idealism, skepticism and determination to bring useful ideas to life.”
Not surprisingly, Goodrich also thinks there’s a learning curve. “However, being a journalist does not qualify you for startup life,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is about building a sustainable business. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of math involved.”
What do you think? What are some reasons YOU think journalists could make good entrepreneurs? Do you have any examples of entrepreneurship within your newsrooms? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
The gamification of news can be a powerful tool for marketing and reader engagement, but it must be done in a way that rewards all types of readers, based on their level of involvement. (Check out the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder; slide nine here is especially helpful.)
If the news is gamified as a knee-jerk response to industry trends, the user experience may end up not be a relevant one. Before you start to create a game around your publication, you’ll not only want to think about the goals — rewarding loyal readers to increase loyalty is a simple one — but what exactly you want to reward readers for.
I’ve thought of three main things news organizations want to reward readers for:
1. Reward activity.
This is the most general type of reward, and many sites and platforms do this (Foursquare and GiantBomb are two examples). News organizations can reward readers for reading, commenting on and sharing (Facebook/Twitter/e-mail) stories.This type of reward, however, is easily gamed. Think about all of those erroneous Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins meant only to boost numbers. (This led to our well-received Foursquare etiquette post.)
Rewarding basic reader activity is a great way to get your audience to spend more time on your news site, or to visit multiple times each day. The more local traffic your news organization receives, the more likely advertisers will want to get involved; incremental revenue is never bad.
2. Reward curiosity.
Once your news organization sponsors reader activity on the site, you’ll want to reward readers who take that extra step outside of the basic on-site experience.
Perhaps they follow up on a series of restaurant-related articles by following along with a Gowalla or SCVNGR activity. Reward them with a coupon they can use at one of them. Maybe they consistently read stories about their neighborhood, or their local politician. If this is the case, you might want to invite them to a sponsored summit or activity; for instance, a political debate. If a reader users a “social” ad or promotion, reward them.
3. Reward involvement.
Yes, there’s a difference between reader activity and reader involvement.
The most active news readers and followers are the ones most likely to contribute, or want to contribute — but there’s no way for them to do so.
In this case, what’s the process for involving readers at different levels? For users that read the news, how can you get them to read more? For readers that read a lot, how can they contribute? For readers that contribute, how can you make them a more active part of the stories you tell each day?
Can they be a moderator in a reader forum? Can they contribute to a blog? Would your news organization allow them to create a more specialized blog using your publication’s blog platform? If these features don’t exist, perhaps it’s important to consider them.
How big are your calls to action? If a reader submits a tip, not only should you thank them, but perhaps they could earn a special “Armchair Reporter ” achievement for doing so. If a reader posts a valuable comment on a story, they should be rewarded in some way for doing so.
What else can news organizations reward readers for doing? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
Quora’s a dynamic ecosystem of questions and answers. Think of it as a forum, a wiki and a Twitter stream combined. (It could also be used like Help A Reporter Out, if you’re familiar with that.) Here’s a quick video explainer:
Playing by Quora’s rules:
Right now, Quora’s TOS dictate that site users “must provide us accurate information, including your real name, when you create your account on Quora.” This means that brand pages are not allowed. (Sorry, Colonel Tribune, New York Times, Austin American-Statesman and others.)
The community is backing Quora up; it’s a tight-knit group of early adopters who seem to be compelled — and rightfully so — to keep Quora brand-free.
This is not to say, however, that news organizations can’t provide compelling, useful answers to questions pertaining to its coverage areas.
Once you’ve set up your Quora profile — under your real name, of course — here are a few things you can do:
Monitor the topic pages for your subject areas. For instance, if I were a sports reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I’d monitor Chicago, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cubs and some others.
Interestingly enough, there was no Chicago White Sox topic, so I created one. Reporters should create topics that haven’t already been created for their coverage areas; this in turn will get them additional visibility on Quora, help distinguish them as early adopters who will contribute to the site, and will also uncover local Quora users as they identify the topics they’re interested in.
Build your network of sources and experts. Quora is still in its infancy; this means many “influential” sources are on there. Leverage those experts in your content as the need arises.
Incorporate Quora questions and topics into blog posts and articles. The Quora audience may be vastly different from your online news audience. Leveraging the discussions there could generate additional buzz and digital “street cred” with your readers. (UPDATE 1/19: Here’s a post/video by Paul Gailey showing how to incorporate Quora into WordPress blogs.)
If a news organization doesn’t have a clearly defined platform for reader questions (e.g. “what is the best Chinese restaurant in town,” “where can I find a public transportation schedule”) use the Quora API to stream relevant questions on your news site.
In the long run, brands may not be allowed on there, but reporters absolutely should be. But should brands be there?
My short answer: an enthusiastic yes — all news organizations (and brands) should be allowed on Quora, provided they play by the rules and are good Quora-zens. (Quora citizen, for short.) Take some time to learn about the community before you really dive in. (A hat tip to Lucretia Pruitt for writing this quick guide on Quora.)
How do you think reporters can use Quora? Are you already using the service? If so, what have you done with it so far? Please leave your thoughts as comments below, and we may add your points to the above list. (Crediting you, of course!)
While we wonder what the business terms of the agreement are, it’s fairly safe to say that this move works for both parties. This is a great step for McClatchy; they now have a partner that can deliver local — nay, hyperlocal — daily deals through its pages. This is also a great step for Groupon, as the company can spread its wings into the not-so-digital community.
This isn’t the news business’ first foray into discounting, however. The Chicago Tribune has its own deals site, Half-Price Chicago, which offers gift certificates at steep discounts.
What are your thoughts on the deal? Is this type of arrangement something a newspaper can pull off with its own sales force, or does partnering with, say, a Groupon or YouSwoop make more sense? Has your news organization considered offering similar deals?
If you haven’t tried Gowalla or Foursquare, the whole idea of “checking in” to a location seems rather absurd – much the way Twitter likely sounded absurd when you first heard about it. However, we now know that Twitter can be used as an effective tool during breaking news events. That point was driven home in Austin during the plane crash into the IRS building. It’s way too early to tell whether Gowalla, Foursquare or any other location-based network will truly hit the mainstream – or be an effective tool for journalists beyond fun marketing.
So what does the Statesman expect to gain from this deal with Gowalla?
* It is very good for marketing. Gowalla is entertaining and addictive to use, so it’s great to have our brand associated with something fun.
* It’s another way to get into mobile devices. The news industry has been trying hard for the past couple of years to go mobile, building iPhone apps, better mobile sites and using Twitter and text messages. This is yet another way to seamlessly put our content and news into smart phones, which weaves our news into the fabric of our city.
* It is a way to get our foot in the door. If this does take off, we’ll be in a good position to do much more with it.
For its part, Gowalla gets exposure and content, two things it needs as it pushes back against not only Foursquare, but Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and others who are jumping into or are already in the location-based field.
We’re starting out with eight Gowalla trips, but plan to expand with more trips and eventually other creative ways of melding our content into Gowalla’s application. It’s a good start – and it’s fun.
Journalists are increasingly looking to expand their skill set or even reinvent themselves during this challenging time for the news industry. Some are doing it on their own terms.
Former newspaper reporters Alexis Grant and Adam Jadhav have a lot in common. They both quit their full-time reporting jobs they loved to travel abroad while blogging and shooting photos and video along the way.
Blog Fixture of New Venture
Grant set a goal for herself that after she had been working at the Houston Chronicle for three years and if she had enough money saved, she would take a long-term trip. When she was 27, she left her job as a health reporter in 2008 and spent six months traveling to several French-speaking African countries.
Alexis documented her travels through a blog
Grant freelanced for newspapers and magazines, but stressed that it supplemented the trip costs, but didn’t pay for them completely. She also tried blogging for the first time and put most of her effort into that. She also blogged so her family would know where she was.
Grant said that in her reporting job, she didn’t want to add another thing to her job, such as blogging. During her trip she learned she loved blogging. “I discovered a love for blogging that I didn’t know I had,” she said.
Slow and unpredictable Internet connections made things difficult. She said her biggest mistake was not setting up her blog ahead of time so she would have as little work as possible to do when blogging on the road. When Grant did find a fast Internet connection, she’d upload photos to Flickr. That’s how editors she freelanced for were able to access them.
When Grant got back, she decided to write a book full-time about the trip. Having just turned 28, she moved in with her parents in suburban Albany, NY. The travel memoir is loosely based on the blog. “There’s an element of personal journey to it,” she said.
She attributes writing the book to helping her improve her writing and becoming a better journalist. “I think that’s going to help me in my next job,” she said. “This is a chance for me to see how I could write in a different way.”
Grant launched another blog and a YouTube channel and posted her travel videos. She also joined Twitter. “Through my blog and Twitter, I was able to find others who are writing travel memoirs,” she said. Then she started a Ning group for writers of travel memoirs.
Today, Grant is job searching while living in Washington DC.
Search for Meaningful Journalism
At 27, Adam Jadhav went to Kenya nearly eight months ago. Since then he has been to Madagascar and India. He’s now in southeast Asia.
Jadhav left his job as reporter at the St. Louis-Dispatch covering poverty issues in July 2009 to go abroad as an international reporter. He admitted that a one-week reporting trip to Cuba in March made his desire to do international reporting stronger. In 2007, he was the newspaper’s multimedia reporter. In the summer of 2008, he launched the Post-Dispatch’s political channel on YouTube.
“I figured I could afford to spend a year or two out on the road tilting at windmills and (I hope) producing some meaningful journalism along the way. And I’m incredibly lucky: I had the savings, the lack of commitments, a supportive mother, professors and editors, the multimedia training and a healthy dose of moxie to do it,” he wrote in an e-mail.
At the same time, he launched a blog, where he posts videos, audio slideshows and photos. He said the blog is a personal outlet to share his trip with his family and friends, but he also posts updates about the work he’s covering during his travels. He also uses Facebook and Twitter to share information.
Jadhav also struggles with slow Internet connection speeds. He said that in Africa it can take up to two hours to upload a video, which also requires a constant connection to achieve. He uses YouTube as his video content management system because it’s ubiquitous and it offers the best chance for his video clips to get picked up elsewhere.
“YouTube is the starting point for my videos; they automatically spread to Twitter and Facebook. I absolutely think cross posting is a good idea and when I have something more worthwhile, I fully intend to post elsewhere,” he said.
He tries to focus on stories that will connect with U.S. audiences. For example an HIV clinic in Kenya has a direct connection to the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Jadhav said he has spent far more time sending e-mails and looking up contacts as part of his business then doing actual journalism.
“The big, meaty stories are too expensive to really pursue without prior funding commitments. News feature and travel journalism is simply easier to sell,” he said.
He spent his first three months in India waiting for his residency and his work permit to get processed and approved, which was important because he eventually wants to work in India long-term.
Jadhav admits, however, his lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “I’m comfortable being marginally employed,” he said. “I’m not in a rush. I have savings to fall back on, and that I’m doing plenty of personal travel, adventure and language study.”
Jadhav doesn’t know when he plans on returning to the U.S. He’s moving to Ecuador in July for volunteer work and to pursue other stories. He tentatively plans to be in the U.S. in the fall to apply to an international development graduate school before returning to India early next year.
It isn’t just wanderlusts who want to do freelance journalism abroad. There are training programs for learning these skills and applying them professionally.
He said there’s a lot of spray and pray out there. In other words, shooting video and hope you’ve got something good. “That’s not what we’re talking about,” he said.
The project aims train people to speak a visual language. “The visual language really is a separate language. Too few people can really speak this language properly,” he said.
Program courses include photojournalism and social documentary, foreign correspondence and backpack documentary, according to its site. Workshops include “Storytelling: Backpack Journalism Style.” Gentile said they are working on certificate program.
The Backpack journalism methodology doesn’t work for every story, he said, but when it does, it’s much more intimate. Although Gentile fears that the methodology might be used as a cost-saving measure by news organizations.
He pointed out that no one is providing the platform, engaging the industry and practicing the craft of backpack journalism at the same time.
“We want to teach the real power of backpack journalism,” he said.
Freelance journalist travel tips:
From Alexis Grant:
Be flexible. It’s almost better not to have a plan.
Have your blog and social media tools set up and ready to use.
Consider having something else to do with your time. There will be downtime while waiting to hear back from an editor or a source.
Leah Betancourt is a journalist who has written about social media, emerging media and community engagement for Mashable, Poynter and elsewhere. This is her first post for Old Media, New Tricks, and we’re glad to have her!
2010 really looks like the year of location-based social networks, and the news industry seems to agree. The Metro publishing group recently announced a partnership with Foursquare; once a site user says where they are (done via GPS), relevant articles from Metro’s Canadian papers will be pulled into the program, providing site users additional information about the neighborhoods, restaurants and stores near them.
While this move may make some waves for Metro, and may drive some incremental traffic to the Metro group of sites, some may question the move’s overall value for the news company.
Here are three additional ways news organizations — and the business units that support them — can leverage location-based social networks such as Foursquare to make money and drive some incremental traffic:
Highlight local landmarks, must-dos and other activities in a multimedia tour. Location-based services such as GoWalla and Foursquare were created, essentially, for social urban explorers: people who like to go to new places and tell others about their travels. Local news organizations can encourage their writers to create content about landmarks and partner with advertisers to create promotions and deals for tour goers along the way.
Drive SEO by encouraging local lifestyle writers to post links to reviews/articles on location pages. While not a location-based social network, Urbanspoon allows bloggers to link their restaurant reviews to restaurant pages through a special embed code. (Example here.) Social media leads at news organizations can encourage restaurant reviewers to post restaurant reviews as “tips” on venue pages, feature writers to link to pieces on local landmarks on those pages, and so on. Then, when site users check in to a certain location, they may click through to the newspaper article pages from the network venue pages.
Partner with location-based networks to become their sales force. If a local news organization were to show interest in Foursquare, it could become its local sales division, helping draw in new users, new deals and new locations. The quicker Foursquare, GoWalla or MyTown grow, the more likely that site is to become the location-based social network of the future.
Addendum: Foursquare has announced partnerships with Zagat, Warner Bros., HBO and ExploreChicago. No other news organizations have signed on with the service, but the partnerships, as reported by Mashable, are quite interesting.
It’s a little early to say any one gadget will save anything, but Apple’s new gadget, the iPad, at least makes that a serious question. The publishing industry has to be cautiously optimistic. Here’s why:
It is built for displaying publishers’ content in an attractive way. The New York Times got a star demo at Steve Jobs’ big announcement, and the newspaper actually looks like an easy-to-read digital copy of a print newspaper. Based on the demo of the Times, it feels more like a print edition than any previous digital attempt at reproducing a newspaper. It has a nearly 10-inch screen, allows for intuitive navigation between newspaper sections and yet still takes advantage of the bells and whistles of the Web such as video, resizing and changing fonts, digital breaking news alerts, etc.
It will start at $499, not the $999 many were predicting. For people who want a 3G wireless experience, Apple did make it unlocked, which means you won’t have to only use AT&T the way iPhone users do. This gadget will be in a lot of hands quickly, and I think it will be an Amazon Kindle-killer.
The iPad is compatible with all the apps already in the iTunes store, including any iPhone apps that publishers already built. The experience is good enough to charge for subscriptions (like e-editions on the Kindle) yet high-quality enough to display more traditional print display advertisements. To fully take advantage of the new technology, publishers need to do more than just upsize their iPhone apps, but at least there’s an easy way to already be in the space.
Apple also announced the iBooks book store to allow for easy reading (and buying) on an iPad. iBooks is Apple’s answer to the Kindle. People will get in the habit of paying for content they read. That can only be good for the news industry.
It supposedly has a 10-hour battery life, hours better than most laptops. Combine its good battery life with its small size (half-inch thick and 1.5 pounds), and you have something that people will carry with them just about anywhere.
Some of the things I like about the iPad might also hinder it. Is the device too big? It’s certainly not going to fit in anyone’s pocket. Jobs was seen typing on it while it was resting in his lap. That doesn’t seem very ergonomic. Does it do too much? Will people spend their time on the iPad tweeting, watching YouTube videos and playing games, completely ignoring the news industry? Will publishers take advantage of all that can be done on a better processor and bigger screen that iPad offers over the iPhone or be content just letting the iPhone apps be upsized? If so, will those apps be successful or will people want more?
Several other tablets have been released, and more will come. This surely will become the year of the tablet. Having the iTunes apparatus in place — and Apple’s cachet from successes with the iPod and iPhone — could make the iPad the best opportunity since print for a publisher.
Will this save newspapers? Probably not on its own, but that’s OK – it’s a step in the right direction.
That may or may not be an exaggeration, but according to this data, it seems that more people are — at the very least — starting to explore location-based social networks by linking them up to their existing Twitter and Facebook profiles. However, for users who have just gotten used to Twitter and Facebook, these other networks (and how to act on them) may still seem very foreign.
I recently spoke to a reporter about folks who cheat at Foursquare and other location-based social gaming platforms, and was inspired to write up this quick guide to Foursquare etiquette. (NOTE: While I wrote this guide for Foursquare, it may be applied to other location-based social networks or games that involve “checking in” to a location.)
Here are some Foursquare dos and don’ts:
Create new, meaningful locations. Is there a landmark or cool restaurant that hasn’t been added to Foursquare? Do your fellow “Squares” (coining that term for Foursquare users) a favor and add it.
Add useful tips to existing locations. Do you have a favorite dish at a local restaurant? Is there a waiter or maître d‘ people should ask for? These are the tips that make location-based social networks (all social networks, really) cool — it’s the fact people are willing to share their local wisdom and preferences with others. If you have something to say about a given location that you think will help someone else out, take a second and add it.
Edit incorrect listings. Edit locations that have incorrect addresses and/or phone numbers, or restaurants and venues that are closed. By doing this, you’ll find that you may become a Foursquare Superuser in no time!
Share Foursquare promotions and deals with your friends. Know a bar or restaurant offering a great deal through Foursquare? Tell your friends on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. (For instance, there are several I’ve used: The Drawing Room at Le Passage [occasional client] and David Burke’s Primehouse.) The more people use these deals, the more businesses will create special discounts for Foursquare users. Don’t be shy to proclaim your geekiness to your friends — you may save them some money.
Moderate how often you cross-post to Twitter and Facebook. It’s easy to connect your Foursquare account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles; that said, it’s easy to spam your Facebook and Twitter contacts with your check-ins. Be mindful of how often you cross-post, and make sure to cross-post only things you think are important. Going to McDonald’s in a drunken stupor at 4am with someone who’s not your significant other? It may be risky enough to post it on Foursquare, but especially don’t post it elsewhere. (A hat tip to Benedict Wong for this one.)
Don’t accept friend requests from people you only know through Twitter or Facebook. When someone signs up for Foursquare, they have the ability to pull in connections through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you get a Foursquare invite from someone you know only through those networks, and you’re not comfortable with them knowing where you are, don’t add them, but don’t get weirded out that you’re getting these requests either. I only become Foursquare friends with people I know personally, but that’s my cup of tea. (Another school of thought: “Don’t like ‘em? Don’t Foursquare ‘em.”)
Don’t check in to places you don’t actually go to. I work on Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue, and I take the bus to work each day. If I’m active on Foursquare, I may check in to my job, into the Magnificent Mile and to my apartment (not my real address), but that’s it. Some folks, as they commute via bus, train or car, will check into locations they pass by briefly.There’s no reason to check into locations you don’t spend any time at, so don’t do it.
Don’t let Foursquare consume you. Nothing will get you in the doghouse quicker than constantly checking in on Foursquare when you’re on a date. If your Foursquare usage interferes with dates or family time, you’re not enjoying the time you actually spend at that location, so you may want to scale back a bit. If you feel you must check in, however, retreat to the restroom.
Up for discussion:
Retroactive check-ins. It’s easy to forget checking in to a location, but if you remember after the fact, will you bother going back to check in to locations you’ve left? (I know I’ve done this on occasion, which is why I didn’t put it in the “Don’t” section.)
Have I missed anything? Do you disagree with something I’ve said? Please feel free to post any additional thoughts you have as comments below.