The Non-Journalism Things I (Begrudgingly) Picked Up Once I Started My Own Media Venture

It was a long process.

Non-trepreneurial Me in 2014

I used to be a video producer at New York magazine. Do you remember the “Last Night on Late Night” column? That was me. And my workflow stayed pretty consistent: my editors would decide on the videos for the week, and then I’d shoot, clip, cut, and done. Then onto the next one.

But once I started on this crazy entrepreneurial journey in 2014 with my Cooking with Granny web series, things got complicated for this self-labeled “non-trepreneur.” Every day solicited a new learning curve and a begrudging acceptance of things I’d actively avoided out of either haughtiness or fear. Things like marketing, social media, and spreadsheets. And so much more.

Marketing and social media: To this day, no phrase repulses me more than “If you build it, they will come.” Because you know what? You could’ve spent months casting the grandmas, editing the food porn closeups, and getting the juiciest stories. But without good social media marketing infrastructure in place, you’re only getting crickets. And so I’ve learned to edit my videos with audience retention analytics in mind, tweet more often (thanks to Jeremy Caplan and Carrie Brown’s #ejsj16 scavenger hunt), and adapt to emerging algorithms with new Facebook videos such as this one:

Spreadsheets. I first dusted off my Google Sheets to figure out how to price my different Kickstarter reward tiers. See, I was running what would become a successful Kickstarter campaign, and that totally catapulted me out of my comfort zone and into this daily routine of polite begging (more on that below). Since then, these compact grid lines have been making their way onto my computer screen daily to record income-expense statements, analytics tracking reports, and milestone forecasts, to name a few.

Revenue Streams and Doing Sales. Storytelling, not money, drove me towards journalism. But the need for cash, and the challenge in asking people for some, became laser-clear when I decided to produce Cooking with Granny independently. This mad dash for cash is still persistent. And at the Tow-Knight program, in my readings on digital entrepreneurship, during conversations with nosy family members and impolite strangers, and in my own internal dialogue, I hear about revenue streams. Revenue streams, revenue streams, revenue streams. I hear the term so often it’s begun to sound like a delicious French creek I want to drink from. (Which, I guess, it essentially is.) And to that point, I’ll soon be announcing a new series of events! Any interested sponsors or partners out there? Ping me!

Design thinking, Experimentation & Listening to Users. At our Monday morning New Business Models class, Jeff Jarvis notoriously denigrates the journalist’s deafness, our stubborn inability to listen to our users. Our field trips to Ideo, Betaworks and the New York Times’ Beta team further drive the lesson home. So whether I’m thinking about new social media campaigns or revenue streams (there’s that term again), I try to do so with the end users’ needs in mind.

Public speaking: I had no choice but to sharpen this skill real fast. My show found itself in incredible circumstances such that my second public speaking event following my launch party took place at the Apollo Theater (!!!). And luckily, every month at CUNY, Jeremy Caplan and Matt MacVey give us the opportunity to practice our demo pitches and get crucial feedback. Storytelling is paramount.

Me & The Grannies (on the right) explaining what ube is to a fan at the Apollo. It’s a purple yam you can make delicious Filipino puddings with.

Planning every minute of every day. When you’re an entrepreneur, there are no editorial meetings or deadlines or start-times or water cooler talk times structured for you. You have to fabricate your daily itinerary to maximize your productivity. And distractions are many.

Networking. From Parse.ly to YouTube Space to CUNY, Columbia, American Museum of Natural History, women entrepreneur panels, food festivals and food blogger conferences, I try to get a pulse on the digital food and culture video industry and meet key people. It’s safe to say, I’ve got my elevator pitch down by now.

Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve found the need to schedule relaxing mental breaks into my schedule.

I still have a lot to learn, and I’ve come to accept this. Expanding my show into a sustainable business is pretty damn hard. But then I remind myself why I’m doing this — people are demanding fair and diverse representation in the media; food media has blown up; I truly enjoy multicultural storytelling around food; and I love these grandmothers! — and I take these new lessons in stride.

Caroline Shin is a 2016 Tow-Knight fellow and the creator of the Cooking with Granny web series where grandmothers cook family recipes and tell stories from their kitchen. She is committed to diversity (culture, gender, age) on- and off-camera and has been influenced by both her Korean immigrant grandmother and her love affair with New York City, her stomping grounds since childhood.

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