rough draft: outline for lecture on entrepreneurial journalism

In a couple of weeks I'll be giving a lecture at City University, where I'm a Visiting Journalism Fellow, on Entrepreneurial Journalism. My intention isn't to offer any answers, just point out some opportunities to a group of 100 MA students who, due to the economic climate and recent shifts in consumption of content and the business models for making money out of it, are no longer assured a job in their chosen profession by simply graduating from one of the top journalism departments in the country. It's not all doom and gloom – a number of last year's students are out there, thriving, and getting paid for their work – and hopefully I'll be able to point this year's students towards some similar opportunities.

Here's a rough draft outline that I've put together, with a bit of help in the form of some great links (thanks!) provided by Paul Bradshaw and Craig McGinty, both of whom have benefited personally and professional by embracing the brave new world that is entrepreneurial journalism. Here's the draft – links and other feedback happily received – I need your help!:

Section One – the old way

Sales based business models…

Sell content to an audience

> some people willing to pay for content
> some people willing to pay for packaging and/or delivery device
> subscriptions ensure lock-in to daily, weekly, monthly or annual payment
>> direct subscription with content provider (eg. magazine subscription)
>> indirect subscription via third party, usually a platform (satellite providers, etc)
> royalties from use (cuttings services, Performing Right Society (PRS), Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), etc)

Build an audience, and sell eyeballs to advertisers… price depends on:

> size of audience

> demographic (age, sex, location, education, income; niche vs general)

> advertiser perception of importance of brand

Problems with the old model, online

> many people consider content to be free
> mechanisms for small, one off, (micro)payments prohibitively complex and expensive
> google and others aggregate and repackage content, denying the original eyeballs to sell
> audiences fragmented
>> almost unlimited competition from many producers

Section Two: Business models for Social Media

> create a participatory framework
> increase audience size and loyalty through participation
> users generate most of content
> users reveal demographic data
>> detailed demographic data has a higher value to advertisers
> data trail from participation reveals even more about users (facebook knows that you're 20, recently described yourself as "unattached", attend City University, and just friended a whole bunch of ex-classmates who recently changed their location to Sydney – queue Qantas and dating website advertisments)

But still, they depend largely upon old models…

> sell subscriptions to advanced features (flickr, linked in, dating websites)
> sell subscriptions to content (coming soon to News International properties)
> targeted advertising (facebook, premium google search results)
> general advertising (banner ads)
> sell opportunities to engage with audience (

and a few new ones…

> sue google (
> crowdsourced funding (
> crowdsourced innovation and marketing (, Dell Ideastorm, etc)
> stay alive long enough to get to IPO

Section Three: So how to be an entrepreneurial journalist?

> yes, there are some ways to make money
> think more widely about extracting value from your content and participation online
>> build yourself as a brand
>> have conversations that could lead to job opportunities
>> come up with interesting projects that might attract funding from, for example, the Knight Foundation
> you're not just a journalist anymore – you also have to sell, market, consult, network and it would help to develop websites too…

Making money – obvious opportunities

> google ads – small money, but easy and doesn't involve any selling
> banner advertising – automated, and again easy, but very little money in it
> associate programmes – advertise products and services, such as items from Amazon, using embed code – easy, and can be good money in right circumstances
> target a niche, and sell ads to those who want to advertise to that niche (
> build a compelling proposition and sell it on
> sell your skills – whether it's setting up blogs, live blogging events, creating and implementing a social media strategy, run audience engagement activities etc you have skills others might want

Build Yourself as a Brand

> again, targeting a niche you genuinely are interested in makes sense
>> might be fun anyway
>> demonstrate ability to create an audience as well as content
>> gets you noticed
>> less competition, particularly from “old media” (FT – example of big media doing ok in this space)

Have Conversations To Create Opportunities

> point prospects to your online presence
> build your professional network, and make it visible (linked in, slideshare, etc)
> live blog industry events
> become the centre of the audience community you target

Market and Sell Your Skills, Not Content

> you can create content – identify who, both within in the media and elsewhere, might be interested in it
>> PR, Marketing, Industry, Government, etc
> show others how you do it – teaching and consulting can be rewarding, and it pays


> Extract data from your audience and sell it (data mining)
> Repackage data to build new things (and sell it – councils, news, marketing agencies, etc)
> Devise applications (see Glamour Ask a Stylist app)
> Sell and manage clever content + social media propositions


(Update: 22 April)

I'm really pleased to announce that I've enlisted the help of two guests, both of them innovators and successful entrepreneurial journalists, to provide case studies from their own experience and work with students to generate some new ideas during the lecture:

Alex Johnson, who lives around the corner from me has, from his garden shed, created a business out of writing about, what else, garden sheds ( with a bit of consulting on the side.

Richard Lander, a City Graduate himself, is the Director and Executive Producer of Citywire Holdings (


  1. Great to read your notes. It taps into the transparency thing so many people emphasise is vital to good journalism.
    But they’re also notes I was reading when I was busily preparing for an interview I’m working on. To read those notes and think about what I’m about to embark on only hyper-aware of my own inadequacies but also how steep the hill to climb is if it is everyone has to embrace entrepreneurial journalism.
    I appreciate why it’s an important topic to grapple with and one which many journalists need to adopt. But for those who currently strive to improve their writing and enhance their creative storytelling, to be faced with the massive chapter header “You’re going to have to make your own money out of all this when you’ve cracked it” is, quite frankly, enough to make me think it’s probably not worth it anyway.
    Maybe what that says is that I’m first and foremost one of those boring ‘creatives’ with little or no grasp of what the real world is like. Maybe it’s me who has to either rise to the challenge or go start up a sandwich bar somewhere in east London (and, if I have enough time, write a blog about my experiences doing so).
    I can’t help wondering whether hand in hand with the notion that more individuals have to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, so some of those individuals need to hang on to the idea they’ll need to employ some people.
    Not everyone can be entrepreneurs. If they could capitalism couldn’t survive (and some reckon it’s shaking at the knees anyway).
    Dare I say it, couldn’t there be a third way?
    (Oh .. and of course, whilst I freely offer my feedback for your presentation, these notes are not available under anything other than the strongest terms of the Creative Commons License. In other words, if you use ’em Mr Hannam you’d better pay for them.)

  2. A lot of guessing generalisation mixed with a few particularly good ideas (using skills to help others). But it’s all pretty much a new area and few answers are clear at all.
    Another possible money-maker is sponsorship; either sponsored posts (“advertorials” really) or – my preference to work towards with North West Sheffield News Online – local businesses sponsoring the site for a period of time (a week or a few months) as part of community PR for themselves.
    For sure, all strategies depend on building up an audience and this takes great thought, use of multiple platforms, considerable time … and a resource pot to sustain the project for the couple of years minimum before breaking even.
    It apparently took the West Seattle Blog a couple of years – – but now they’re making money. Time, resources, stimulating an easily-distracted audience.
    Running a site can bring in some money and one of these ways is using it as a living portfolio with which to get freelance gigs copywriting or editing commercially. And of course, hiring out those geek skills!
    Best 8-)

  3. Looks like it will be a fascinating and very useful lecture! I finished my undergrad in journalism six years ago now, and have pretty much always taken a non-traditional, “entrepreneurial” approach – not strategically at first (although in retrospect, I think it was quite a good career move), but because it was the only way I could forsee the getting the kind of work I wanted to do.
    It worked, but now I have the entrepreneurial bug and keep wanting to go back out on my own, experiment, and see what new levels I can take this thing to.

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