Journalists need to be entrepreneurial

Mindy McAdams offers a short course on what it means to be entrepreneurial.

Here’s what I say:

  • Be resourceful: I’m amazed to meet reporters who are not resourceful. From my earliest days in the business, I’ve known reporters who can’t get beyond what is handed to them. This isn’t good. If you’re resourceful, you know how to make one more phone call, or where to look for the document that some government flak says you can’t have. When you’re resourceful as a person, you will figure out how to do things, to learn things, to make things happen, even when circumstances say, “no you can’t.”
  • Think forward: What’s happening today and what does it tell you about tomorrow? Always be ready for change.
  • Take initiative: Don’t wait for the perfect time, or for all the pieces to fall into place. Just find a way to get the job done. Find, know and use free resources on the web to help you get the job done, if necessary.
  • Be an optimist: Don’t complain, don’t whine, believe that tomorrow will be better. No successful entrepreneur ever let temporary set backs determine his fate.
  • Have a sense of urgency. This goes hand-in-hand with “take initiative.” There’s no time to sit around and wait. Try to make every minute count. Be organized, have a plan, follow through and get things done — things that matter. “Time’s wing’d chariot is always hurrying near.” Carpe diem.
  • Be goal oriented. Have an idea what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you’re going to measure success or completion.
  • Don’t let the bastards get you down. Sometimes, your critics are right, but many times people, even well intentioned people, will just create roadblocks because they don’t understand. They will assault you with negative, deflating comments or try to counter your moves. Instead of giving in, move on.
  • Be a realist. Sometimes your critics are right. Sometimes, you need to listen to the voices in your head. Sometimes moving on means dropping a project because circumstances have changed, your initial assumptions were wrong or things simply aren’t going to work out.
  • Failure is your friend. This is a companion to “be a realist.” Not everything you are going to try is going to work out. This is often why smaller projects are preferable to bigger projects. It allows you to fail fast. Learn from failure and move on. One advantage of failure is that it allows you to say you tried it and it didn’t work, freeing you to try something else.
  • Think different. Apple is right. If you want to bring about change, you can’t follow the pack. Develop the discipline to think critically about what you see and hear. Are other people’s assumptions correct?
  • Be a self-learner. You should never stop learning, and the most efficient way to learn is to teach yourself. Try new things, read lots of books, be curious, ask questions, read blogs, set learning goals, be resourceful about what you learn and how you learn it. Among the things you should be learning, even if you’re purely a content person, is business, especially strategy. It will help you come up with better ideas.
  • Aim for perfection, but never expect it. Perfect never happens. On the web, the job is never done. It’s great to always do your best and expect your best, but perfectionism leads paralysis.
  • Be kind. You’ll get more done with people on your side.

To me, that’s being entrepreneurial.

Shorter is better: Be careful how you read eye track findings

The new eye track study says that online readers will read a longer news story more in depth.

Be careful not to read too much into that. It merely says that once a reader decides to read a longer story online, he will spend more time with it than a print reader.

It doesn’t say longer stories will get more readers, or that longer stories will help you grow online audience.

The web is intention driven. It’s a pull medium. So, when a user make a decision to spend some time with a story, of course he is going to read it more in depth.

In several years of watch news site web stats, I’ve observed that shorter is better. Long, in-depth stories rarely drive the number of page views that easy to digest pieces do. Frequent updates and of short items will grow audience. Long stories, not so much.

Newspapers well positioned to benefit from amateur contributions

It’s not always easy finding free, non-DRM MP3s to post on MP3Caravan, but I’ve been pretty amazed at all of the good, independent music I have found. A good deal of it — though probably less than half — comes right from artists’ sites.

So far, my iTunes playlist of these downloads is up to 90 songs. And I love everyone.
I haven’t used my eMusic account in a couple of months. I’m busy with the free stuff I’m downloading.

So, with that in mind, this post from Chris Anderson is interesting (he’s quoting Bob Lefsetz):

I’m positively stunned at the blowback from business regulars about that chap [I actually don’t know which chap he’s referring to–maybe this one?] giving his music away for free. Oldsters can’t understand the economics!

I’ll clue you in, THERE ARE NONE!

This is your worst nightmare. People who can follow their dream on sweat equity. Who with their computer and the money from their day job or mommy and daddy can compete with you. It’s like the North Vietnamese, all our military might couldn’t defeat individuals who would fight to the death. Same deal in Iraq.

It’s an eye-opener. That your model is IRRELEVANT!

YOU need to pay the mortgage. YOU need to go on vacation to the Caribbean. But the new musicians? They’re willing to sleep on the floor and eat ramen. Hell, they’re in their twenties, they’re not on the corporate track, they’ve got different ambitions!

This is a level of disruption the newspaper industry has not yet faced. Yes, there are isolated examples of people doing hyperlocal journalism on a low-cost/no-cost basis, but no serious person believes bloggers are going to take over the world.

Songs, though. Songs are different. One good song can last for quite a while, if not forever, and the free ones can crowd out the ones that might cost you money. There are a lot of good musicians and songwriters out there. If every one of the good ones, and a few of the mediocre ones, produce just one song worth keeping, that’s a helluva lot of music. Even an avid music fan couldn’t keep up.

News, being disposable, must constantly be replaced. There’s a harder pace for the amateur newshound to keep up. Obviously, I’m a big fan of amateur journalism, but when you consider the disposable nature of the news story vs. the permanence of a good song, you can see, I think, that the news business isn’t likely to face the same level of disruption (though the disruption we’re dealing with on the revenue side is a concern).

Of course, this difference creates an advantage for newspapers: The web site can become a platform for encouraging, collecting, aggregating and distributing non-staff-generated stories. The lack of permanence means that you need a structure and a process to cycle contributions, which is a structure and process newspaper people know well. As a matter of brand position, our community relationships make it an magnetic place for amateurs to gather and participate.

As for the music business, for guys like me, who basically has no respect for the music industry (the business side of making records), it’s just a matter of helping those independent artists and hobbyists find an audience. That’s part of what is all about.

With video, content matters; everything else is frosting

More from Tim Porter:

Mossberg says he’s doing low-tech videos to go with his columns. No production values, he says, no editing, but a recent one gets 60,000 plays. He’s astonished, but Diller’s not. “You are the production value, he tells Mossberg. His point: Name matters, content matters, brand matters. Everything else is frosting.

I disagree that name and brand matter all that much.  It might help, but it doesn’t matter.  Just look at all of the non-brand, non-name lo-tech stuff on YouTube that gets way more than 60,000 plays.