The Media And Digital Enterprise project based out of the University of Central Lancashire (uclanMADE) launched last weekend with an intensive 48-hour weekend workshop, aimed at supporting news entrepreneurs. It’s purpose? To help news startups stay up.
I was one of a group of 40 entrepreneurs invited to attend. I met lots of passionate journalists and media types who couldn’t care less about the supposed state of the industry. It was inspiring to see people’s projects and passion for them. The weekend consisted of talks, consultations, business-planning, pitching, and open discussions, and I learnt a lot.
Here’s just some of what I picked up:
1) Plan the business too
All attendees had exciting ideas about the content they wanted to produce, or the product that they wanted to create. However, fewer had planned a business model that supported it. We all did an exercise that focussed around analysing the resources available and the market needs. An idea was then born out of those assets and requirements and then bringing a product out of those skills and requirements. This involved a lot of sticky notes and large tables, and it’s a process I’d highly recommend if you’re thinking about starting something. You don’t ever need to head into the process with an idea- in fact it’s probably better if you don’t- but if you do, it’ll give you a closer look at how feasible your idea is, and what exactly you need to make it achievable.
2) Journalists can be salespeople
“I’ll need to hire a salesperson to sell advertising”. Rubbish.
Someone pointed out at the weekend that journalists spend lots of time ringing people up. As do salespeople. They pointed out that journalists spend a lot of time asking questions. So do salespeople. Journalists are versatile people, or they should be, and an entrepreneur is even more so. There is really no reason to avoid trying to sell advertising if you’re an entrepreneurial journalist and your business model relies on its sale. Stop making up excuses, and pick up the phone.
3) Get real, experienced advice
I think a lot of news entrepreneurs would admit that they know their product inside out. Many people at the uclanMADE weekend were print journalists with decades of experience, and they knew what they wanted to make and had identified the need and had the resources and talents at hand to make it happen. However, they lacked knowledge about cashflow, books, and VAT laws and other similarly dry topics.
This is where the MADE coaches stepped in and offered real instruction. If you’re a news startup, or considering a news startup, I can’t stress enough how important it is to at least get some with a basic knowledge of small business workings on board as an advisor. It removes so much doubt, and learning the ins and outs of running a business on your own isn’t easy- and often mistakes are things you can’t really afford to make.
Ultimately, the range of talent and quantities of passion and determination was the best thing about the weekend. I’ve never been more invigorated about running a news startup. At Wannabe Hacks, we’ll be following some of the uclanMADE startups as they progress, so watch this space.
If you have any advice for news startups trying to stay up, tweet us @wannabehacks, or get stuck into the comments.
- Five things I learned during production week Recently at City, we’ve been put through our paces during...
- Jamie Chadd: 5 things I learned from a journalism phone interview gone wrong! Jamie Chadd can be found blogging here and tweeting here....
- Guilt and digital first The past week has been rubbish for newsprint in the...
- Things that go bump at night: working the night shift I like to cook. I’m not very good at it,...
- Natalie’s thoughts on the Guardian Open Weekend This weekend was the Guardian Open Weekend and we went...
After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look