Jeremy Caplan


How startup sites can take advantage of emerging revenue streams

As journalism entities move beyond ads in pursuit of new revenue streams, events have proven a popular target. People who won’t pay $15 for a digital subscription, the theory goes, may pay $20 instead for wine, cheese and a panel of journalists.

Staging events isn’t a simple endeavor for small organizations structured around news. But for many up-and-coming media organizations like GeekWire, an independent tech news site and online community in Seattle, events are an important part of increasingly diverse streams of revenue.

Rebecca Lovell

During a live chat this week, we’ll discuss events and other emerging revenue streams with Rebecca Lovell, Geekwire’s chief business officer.

Lovell, who oversees the site’s advertising, events, sponsorship and other business initiatives, answered chat participants’ questions and shared thoughts on a variety of topics, including:

  • What separates successful events from those that flop
  • Lessons learned about new revenue streams
  • How to overcome challenges that growing news startups face

You can replay the chat below. Read more


3 ways entrepreneurial journalists can successfully pitch their projects

Ever tried telling your life’s story in a minute? Melting years down into seconds is tough. Summing up a long-simmering passion project can be equally hard.

Whether you’re pitching a new journalism project to a friend or to a financier, you often have to pack your message into a few fleeting moments. To persuade people to invest, collaborate, or even just try out a site requires a special kind of compact communication.

Journalists have ample opportunity to present new ideas. Some 2012 journalism conferences, like the Unity 2012 Convention, feature sessions expressly for startups. Beyond online competitions, like the Knight News Challenge, journopreneurs are increasingly finding alternative outlets for presentations ranging from library talks to Hacks/Hackers Demo Nights.

Whereas slides were once expected, a backlash against traditional PowerPoint presentations among journalists and funders alike has opened the door to more inventive approaches. Read more

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Tips for journalists preparing to launch a startup site

When you’re getting a journalism startup off the ground, you face a number of decision points. Who do you partner with? How do you bring in revenue? How do you get the word out about your project? We’ll discuss these and other key questions facing entrepreneurial journalists in a live chat with paidContent founder Rafat Ali, who is now working on his new startup, Skift.

In a live chat, Ali answered questions on specific decisions, including:

  • Fundraising strategies
  • Whether to provide original content on your site, vs. curating and aggregating
  • Hiring staff

You can replay the chat below for tips and insights.

Interested in learning more about generating revenue for startups? Consider applying for Poynter’s Revenue Camp for Entrepreneurial Journalists.

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Practical tips, resources for entrepreneurial journalists with legal questions

Entrepreneurs leading new journalism ventures confront numerous legal questions. How and when should I determine the appropriate legal structure for my business? What contracts should I use with partners, employees and investors? What legal issues should I be prepared for and, as a journopreneur, who can I turn to for low-cost or pro bono guidance?

I’m not a lawyer, and this post isn’t intended to offer specific legal advice or replace the professional insight of a lawyer. The resources below are offered simply as a starting point for anyone launching a project who anticipates having to grapple with legal questions as the project develops.

Seeking pro bono help

One of the best places to begin, if you’re starting up a media-related project, is the Online Media Legal Network at Harvard’s Berkman Center. Read more


Cheap & useful tools that can help entrepreneurial journalists be more efficient

When it comes to tools, entrepreneurial journalists have the advantage of being free. Free of the obligation to use a news organization’s clunky software packages. Free from layers of tech bureaucracy. And free from having to get approval to try new tools. That freedom, of course, comes at a price. No longer is someone else footing the bill for your digital toolkit. That makes a different kind of free all the more attractive. Free tools.

Fortunately, software developers have turned the world of tools upside down in recent years. Gone are the days when you had to fork out several hundred dollars — or more — for a suite of communication/productivity/office software. If you’re running a small, straightforward project, you can get by with easy-to-use software tools that are free or just a few bucks a month, and most work seamlessly across platforms and devices. Read more


4 ways to start researching the market for your new journalism venture

Journalists love to dive in. Once we’ve got a topic in mind, we rush off to report, write/record, edit and publish. When launching a new venture, though, whether a local or niche site, an app, a network or something else entirely, it’s useful to add a fifth step early on: market research.

In addition to surfacing opportunities you may not have thought about, market research helps clarify the characteristics and interests of your community. It also arms you with business information that’s useful when you’re pitching your product or service to advertisers, sponsors, investors or potential partners.

Before ponying up for subscription services, spend some time with the free resources I’ve outlined below. They’ll help you get a preliminary handle on your intended market.

Size up your audience

Start by gathering basic qualitative and quantitative information about your community and your competitors. Read more


4 lessons for hyperlocal media from inaugural Street Fight Summit

Deals don’t mean dollars. That was a point of consensus at the inaugural Street Fight Summit in New York City Oct. 25 and 26. Over two days, the summit’s 60 presenters and panelists analyzed their adventures in the trenches of hyperlocal media. Some panels addressed the evolution of daily deals and the looming impact of location-based services. Other sessions focused on the economics of local publishing and lessons learned by successful and failed independent journalism ventures.

A key question threaded throughout the conference was how best to turn local consumers into reliable revenue streams. The most valuable insights for independent publishers in attendance centered around new opportunities for better serving local businesses. Over the course of 20 sessions packed into two days, four themes emerged.

1. Read more


How to get to $200K: Lessons in building a profitable niche news site

For every splashy new online news venture with a big name backer, from New York’s DNAInfo to Hawaii’s Civil Beat, there are a dozen smaller startups inching their way toward profitability. One such tiny new news venture, operated out of its managers’ homes, is a financial niche site that generated more than $200,000 in revenue last year., a news site aimed at registered investment advisers, has grown steadily since launching in August 2009 by developing strong ad sales and a well-trafficked industry directory.

I talked with RIABiz Editor and CEO Elizabeth MacBride via e-mail to find out how she did it and what she’s learned about the nuances of running a news startup. You can read our edited exchange below.

Jeremy Caplan: How did you get started with Read more


How entrepreneurial journalists can identify opportunities

The appeal of many entrepreneurial ideas is that they solve big problems. These are problems that affect a lot of people in some small way, or a small number of people in a big way. Aim high, right? That’s the conventional wisdom. It sounds good, but isn’t always a realistic way to get started. Information overload, for example, may be a persistent, pervasive problem, but it’s too big to address in a single shot.

Focus first on getting the idea engine running. Rather than swinging for the fences on your first at-bat, begin by scoping out smaller issues that may have slipped under the radar. The ultimate goal is to go from pain to pay. Here are some tips to help you do that:

Find small points of pain

Exercise: Take three index cards. Read more


How to pitch entrepreneurial ideas to non-journalists

Whenever possible, build the first version of your journalism site/product/service before approaching potential funders. That way you can demonstrate that your product is already working. It’s more effective to talk about what you’re doing now than to speak about what you hope might happen someday.

Whether or not you have live material to show, though, it’s important to be able to articulate your vision. Potential investors — and potential partners or employees — want to hear about your specific plans and strategy. Unlike friends or colleagues, outside investors may care little about your idea’s social value.

Even journalism foundations concerned with social value and sustainability will want to gauge both your business acumen and your project’s financial potential. Foundations don’t mind funding a project’s runway stage, but they want to know how you plan to subsist beyond the project’s infancy.

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