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Back in 2019, I shared why I believe that journalists make great entrepreneurs.

My friend Katherine Rowlands, owner of Bay City News and Bay City News Foundation, wrote to me shortly after with some feedback from her entrepreneurial experience. She said while skills from the journalism world can translate to certain aspects of entrepreneurship, she had observed that sometimes they don’t translate perfectly to the day-to-day practices of running a for-profit or non-profit business.

For example, here are a few questions Katherine highlighted that journalists might find challenging to answer:

  • How do you assess market demand? …

How you can increase your chances of getting accepted, and what we’re looking for in prospective candidates.

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Photo from News Foundry, November 2018. News Foundry was an in-person boot camp with similar aims.

Back in 2018, shortly after the first cohort of journalism entrepreneurship boot camp participants graduated, I reached out to many friends, advisors, and colleagues for input on how to grow the boot camp beyond the pilot phase.

One of the colleagues I reached out to was Josh Stearns at the Democracy Fund. He asked a deeply challenging question that I was not expecting, which was “How much are the people you choose actually the secret sauce [of the boot camp and its outcomes] versus the curriculum itself?”

I wasn’t expecting it because I’d had the same question of many journalism funders who often give out grants to the same people and projects year after year. I didn’t see how it was going to be possible to reinvent the media ecosystem if funders kept investing in the same “winners” and never made the necessary (and more challenging) effort to reach out to and engage new entrants. It’s a big part of what led me to launch the boot camp in the first place. …

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A custom-made program for people who are ready to create a viable business based on delivering reported news or information

I’m excited to announce that applications are now open again for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp. And I’m even more excited to share that the boot camp is now part of the newly announced Google News Initiative Startups Lab that is being piloted in partnership with LION Publishers, an association for independent digital news startups.

The first phase of our GNI Startups Lab will include an eight-week fully-remote boot camp that includes live online classes, one-on-one coaching and peer learning. Upon completion of the program, participants will also receive a free year-long membership to LION Publishers, and the opportunity to apply to the second phase of the GNI Startups Lab program, which will help participants to further grow their project from a plan into a news business — one with loyal customers and recurring revenue. …

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Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

A little preparation can go a long way toward de-risking your business model

“It’s at those moments of sharp sudden change, when the system is being shocked and shaken in various ways, that we might have the greatest opportunity to change things.” — Thomas Homer-Dixon, Author of The Upside of Down.

Back in 2004, a few close colleagues and I decided to test a novel(ish) theory and the lessons have stuck with me to this day. Specifically, I’ve found those lessons regularly infusing my thinking over the years, and they seem particularly relevant for the unusual world we live in today.

The theory was, in a nutshell, that it was possible to develop “viral content” predictably, and that it was not as random as people believed. To put that theory in its proper context, here are just a few of the things that didn’t exist in…

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Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

When I first stumbled on the paid acquisition tactics being used by fast-moving digital-first publishers back in 2008, I had a lightbulb moment: if a publisher could take a newsletter subscriber from casual reader to rabid fan to paying supporter to ambassador, there was a case for paid acquisition of that subscriber. It was really that simple.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve been obsessed with the topic of paid acquisition for newsrooms. I’ve worked with publishers to implement it. I’ve produced research and given presentations on it. I co-host a Slack channel for people in newsrooms who are experimenting with it. And it’s at the core of the curriculum for the Journalism Entrepreneurship Training Co.’s

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One of the journalism entrepreneurs that I’ve been most inspired to watch recently is Kara Mayberg Guzman at Santa Cruz Local. Like a page out of the playbook that I documented on how many news startups come to life, Kara saw a lack of coverage in her own community and left her job in a daily print newsroom and took a leap of faith to build something new.

And like many journalists who’ve taken this path, Kara and her co-founder Stephen decided to — at least, as the first step — start a business. This may seem like a small thing to note, but I believe it’s actually important to point out specifically because it runs counter to the national fascination with nonprofit news that is happening right now in the U.S. …

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The surprising thing about these examples is that they might not look like what you’d expect.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at the annual Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute. The institute is run by Dan Gillmor and Michelle Ferrier and is attended by university-level journalism professors from across the U.S. While there, I shared more than 20 examples of what I believe are signs of a growing movement of news and information startups.

(If you’re in a hurry, just jump to the list below.)

The surprising thing about these examples is that they might not look like what you’d expect. Many of these were new to the dozen or so professors in the room, and some were even new to media industry veterans like Michelle and Dan, which made me think that they should be shared these more widely, and outside of the corner of the Internet that obsesses about such things (you know who you are). …

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Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

The journey to establish true fans is a hidden opportunity to refine your value proposition

This essay, started two weeks ago — where does the time go!? — seems particularly timely in light of several recent articles about How much people make from email newsletters, Should you start a newsletter, and The New Social Network That Isn’t New At All. Each of these articles touches on the idea of speaking directly to your “true fans,” which is what I’ve been thinking about lately.

I started jotting down notes after reading this excellent interview by Simon Owens recently. He was interviewing John Yedinak, the co-founder (along with his brother George Yedinak) of a “ B2B media company that covers a $7.5 …

What news startups can learn from those targeted ads in your Instagram and Facebook feeds

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Credit: normaals/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A couple of years ago, I started to notice how well I was being targeted by advertisements on Instagram. The perfect travel pants, epic kitchen knives, glow-in-the-dark undies. “I would buy any of these things! How do they know me so well?!” I would exclaim. I became fascinated not only with the targeted ads, but with the advertisers themselves — many of them being what are now referred to as “microbrands.”

Microbrands are goods or services that typically are:

  • Sold exclusively online (not in retail stores or on Amazon)
  • Composed of just one item, or a very small range of similar…

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Photo by Katherine McCormack on Unsplash

After a two year expedition exploring the the new frontiers of journalism and funding, the Uncharted Journalism Fund trustees are shutting the project down.

“Initially this was a one year experiment,” said Phillip Smith, a dean of the fund. “We extended it to two because we found it rewarding and felt the experiment was not complete yet. We’re proud to have helped produce excellent journalism and we look forward to projects still in production. But we’ve asked a lot from trustees, both financially and in terms of time commitment. It feels like a good moment to to take a step back, look at what we’ve done, and provide a report for anyone who might want to follow.”

The following is that report. It describes how the fund operated, what it produced, and how much was invested. It includes feedback from trustees. It invites feedback from grant applicants, grant recipients, and the broader community. …


Phillip Smith

👉 My passion is helping: 💰 Newsrooms make more money; 📈 News startups grow their audience; 🔥 Journalists succeed as entrepreneurs. Let’s talk 📩

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