Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Entrepreneurial Models Can New Life for Old School Journalists

I have to apologize-I am way behind on my posts after dealing with my entire family-- including me--getting sick last week. But I'm medicated and rested, so here we go.

As we continue to read/hear about journalism job layoffs and buyouts, we all have to ask the question -- is there still a way to do our craft and still get paid? Buzz Machine blogger Jeff Jarvis has come up with an intriguing idea: instead of laying off your talented journalists, offer them a blog, sell ads and split the profits 50-50. In Jarvis's plan, the journalist would actually own the blog, and the newspaper could actually be an investor if the writer wanted to start a business.

I like this concept on paper, but I'm thinking it would only work with certain beats that have a strong, built-in ad base already. I could see it working in my beat of aviation because there are myriad companies/suppliers out there that would potentially be interested in supporting a knowledgeable blog.

CNN/Fortune's Brainstorm blog has a post about a group of ex-AOLers who are actually putting this concept into practice. Lewis Dvorkin, a former news content manager has launched the True/Slant blog. True/Slant calls itself the digital home for the “Entrepreneurial Journalist,” allowing "knowledgeable and credible contributors" to build their digital brands "using tools that enable them to easily create content and craft stories filtered through human perspective."

“That could be a journalist, or it could be an academic, anyone with incredible subject-specific knowledge, who blogs under their own name,” Dvorkin told Brainstorm. Two names I know well are Miles O'Brien, CNN's former aviation and space reporter and Rolling Stone reporter and "Real Time With Bill Maher" contributor Matt Taibbi.

Former AOL programming chief Jim Bankoff created SBNation, a home for more than 200 individual sports communities covering baseball, basketball, college sports, football, hockey, soccer and general sports. I clicked on the Silver and Black Pride created (hard to find these days) blog to check on coverage on my beloved but beleaguered Oakland Raiders. It seems I'm far from alone in my pain! LOL Last, but certainly not least, former AOL vice chairman Ted LeonsisSnagFilms, a site dedicated to getting bigger distribution -- and revenue -- for independent filmmakers.

It will be interesting to watch how these experiments develop, and how journalists will tap their inner entrepreneur -- either willingly or forced by circumstances -- and take advantage of these opportunities. I was pleased to see that this year's National Association of Black Journalists had several workshops for those interested in creating their own entrepreneurial models, and new president Kathy Times has made that a cornerstone of her two-year term.

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