With the dwindling fortune of many media houses across the globe, there is no job security anymore. The drumbeat is sounding clear and loud. In the space of a year and a half, hundreds of media professionals have been relieved of their jobs. It started with Continental Broadcasting Service, owner of TV Continental, reducing its staff strength by 145. This was followed by retrenchment of unverifiable numbers in African Independence Television (AIT) and The Sun Newspaper. A Yoruba adage says “the death that is killing ones age mate is sending a signal”.
Journalism profession, like every other, is witnessing quite a lot of disruption. So much has changed in the past two decades. Only the blind and unconcerned can say all is totally well. There is no truth in assuming things will not continue the way it is now.
What is sure though is that journalism practice can never die. The trade will continue to expand. It is just that the changes will send some professionals out of business while those who embrace the change and adapt will keep flourishing.
With all the statistics staring us in the face, there is a clear sign for journalists to adequately prepare for the disruptions the profession is witnessing. Despite the signs of worry, there is a common solution being promoted across the globe. To help many journalists remain afloat irrespective, entrepreneurial journalism has become a key component to embrace as technology continues to supply great and effective online communication tools which give energy to news production.
Adequately captured by a writer, “entrepreneurial journalism describes a field of media where journalism is the underlying discipline upon which to create content-based businesses and services that can make money”. The field is open and easy but it will take strong will and exposure in learning to gain an edge. Anyone trying to follow this path must be ready to think of content creation from a different perspective.
Content within entrepreneurial journalism route is first seen from a business term and not just from a public service good. Yes, public service good dimension must not be completely forgotten in our endeavour as news producers. But great success will be achieved if this does not constitute 90% of the goal.
There is a continuous need for journalists who will play in this new field to master the new business model required. More than ever before, journalism in this genre will demand players take a keen look at the way news consumers now want to consume information and creatively manage the change process.
This may not be an easy task for many traditional journalists but it is expedient that journalists look at the profession from the standpoint of an entrepreneur they embrace social media tools. No one is exempted from playing in this field even if you are on a paid employment working with a media house. Just that involvement will require new set of skills.
The idea of entrepreneurial journalism is not completely new. There is a successful experiment to learn from. Researchers claim in 2010, Forbes initiated this when it purchased an online startup experimenting with entrepreneurial journalism. What True Slant did before its acquisition by Forbes was to ask all its content writers to produce content from the lens of their readers instead of writing from editorial spec. With the success of True Slant, Forbes acquired it.
Since then, this editorial model has been encouraged as well as researched by many frontline journalism schools.
The major question in the minds of skeptics with regards to entrepreneurial journalism is what are the chances of success of this approach? Warner and Iasttrebner who researched the field did say failure rate can be high if the focus is just to produce good journalism content. No one says great content should be undermined though.
But despite the advantage in great content and resources, a good entrepreneurial journalist must search out the unique value in his content project with regards to who and how does it profit the target as well as why should they pay attention.
Beyond consideration for the above foundation, a good strategy must be put in place for the development of a compelling journalism product and service which can appeal to product consumers.
The other route one can play here is to consider the opportunity in the social media drift towards content curation. This provides the opportunity of offering values to news consumers without owning the content creation.
Whatever route an entrepreneurial journalist takes, doing it well will require great knowledge of how to diversify income as research has proven that overdependency on advertising alone will spell a big doom.
Knowledge of diversifying income, according to the two researchers above, must incorporate how to garner investment from personal and private investors. Some actually suggested looking at annexing fund from media development agencies if they exist in your region.
As the project gains notoriety, income sources can still come from consulting, organising workshops, symposium, training corporate journalists or media professionals like corporate content writers and media relations staff. These income sources can then be balanced with adverts from your readers, platform members and well packaged or industry-specific research book publication.
It must be emphasised; entrepreneurial journalism is not an easy way out for lazy journalists. It requires investment of time and other resources in the journalism products you are pushing with lot of accuracy and fact-checking your news item, otherwise the project will not be sustainable. A media platform does not thrive on lies and half-done meals laced with lies and inaccurate facts.