Posted: September 30th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Starting up | 1 Comment »
Do some industries produce better entrepreneurs than others? In technology, software engineers who create interesting tools and services to solve problems and the business people who know all about pricing models, gross profit margins and scaling an operation have a leg up on the competition.
But what about journalists?
This week I have the honor of moderating a panel discussion at the Online News Association conference titled “From Journalist to Entrepreneur.” We are fortunate to have one of the most famous journalist-turned-entrepreneurs on the panel in Om Malik, who founded the GigaOm Networks (and is one of the few successful journalist-turned-entrepreneurs who continues practicing journalism). He’s not alone, of course. There are many other success stories with regard to journalists becoming entrepreneurs and launching their own companies, from famous tech luminaries like Nick Denton (Gawker), John Batelle (Federated Media) and Ben Huh (I Can Has Cheezburger?), to up-and-comers and under-the-radar figures like Lisa Williams (Placeblogger), Scott Karp (Publish2), Matt Coen (Second Street Media) and Julia Scott (Bargainbabe).
One of the questions I will ask the panelists is whether journalists have any advantages in becoming entrepreneurs. I know the prevailing wisdom is “No!” given the history of insulation from the business side of the house. (How do you launch your own company when you don’t know anything about the company you work for?) Most journalists lag behind in technical skills, too (although that is beginning to change).
Here are some qualities that might help journalists become entrepreneurs:
- Great at research: There is a ton of new stuff to learn when starting a new company, from legal to accounting to HR. A good reporter will save time finding the best information, which often entails meeting with (”interviewing”) other entrepreneurs.
- Good at networking: Great reporters are good at developing sources who will give them story tips. This is the same skill required in networking with other entrepreneurs and potential business partners.
- Can work cheap: Bootstrapping a company is a lot like journalism since it often means working for peanuts to pursue your calling.
There are thousands of people who have left journalism for some other industry, and many have started their own companies. The obvious option is to start a media company like Scott Lewis (Voice of San Diego), Joel Kramer (MinnPost) or Susan Mernit (Oakland Local). But as more journalists spread their wings and take on more roles in technology and business, the number of journalists-turned-entrepreneurs will continue to grow.
- Mark Briggs
Posted: September 23rd, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Hyperlocal happenings, Location is everything | No Comments »
In case you missed it last week, hyperlocal took center stage at the Techcrunch 50, an unlikely venue for what has previously been thought of as too small a problem for the Silicon Valley elite to get excited about.
Those days are gone. In the wake of acquisitions by AOL (for Patch.com), MSNBC (for Everyblock) and Examiner.com (for NowPublic), hyperlocal is hot and two of the top three entrants at the Valley’s premier technology showcase were hyperlocal focused startups. Redbeacon seeks to build a better alternative to yellow pages or craigslist by matching local service providers with prospective customers, while Citysourced is partnering with cities and municipalities to provide real-time reporting tools to citizens who want to report problems where they live.
Sean Blanda, writing for eMediaVitals, highlighted the obvious irony of this development earlier this week:
Both Citysourced and RedBeacon are profit driven methods of servicing a community, and both ideas could have been revenue generators for a local news outlet.
Mobile, of course, is at the heart of this movement. Half-jokingly, I told my Serra Media co-founder Glenn Thomas that Citysourced is the application that we set out to build in 2006 when we first came up with the idea for Newsgarden, but without an iPhone available, we traveled down a different path than we would today. Blanda sees strength in the mobile movement for hyperlocal as well.
The success of local at TechCrunch 50 might be attributed to Web 2.0 fatigue, but it really is a tribute to the cost and availability of location-based tools on the market. GPS-enabled smartphones are becoming the norm, thus increasing the potential market for location-based mobile applications and web sites.
Adding an iPhone app (and other mobile apps) is critical to any local strategy. (Which is why we’re building mobile into each of our product lines.)
As I often say to audiences during various speaking gigs, publishers should view mobile in 2009 as if they were looking at the web in 1998. Then I ask: “what would you do differently, knowing what you know now about how the web evolved?” Blanda sent a similar caution:
Local community news sites would be wise to jump on the bandwagon before scrappy Internet startups eat their lunch.
Posted: September 18th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Hyperlocal happenings, Location is everything | No Comments »
What is hyperlocal? It’s certainly a buzzword that some people in the news and advertising business are getting tired of hearing. Discussion of the definition of what constitutes hyperlocal news often goes unsettled with one person drawing the line between what’s interesting and what’s trivial differently than the next person.
When you think about it, that’s a pretty simple formula: local + interesting = relevant. Whether a news story, an advertising message or a web site is categorized as “hyperlocal,” depends on how large a geographic area would find it interesting. The smaller the area, the more likely it can be called hyperlocal.
Whether something qualifies as “news” is a different conversation altogether. For example, this effort in Seattle to map fruit trees is unquestionably hyperlocal, but probably wouldn’t pass for news in most traditional newsrooms. The Rainier Valley Post, unquestionably a source for hyperlocal news and information, recognized the relevance and spread the word, writing …
Map Your Fruit Trees! City Fruit is a new organization that promotes urban-grown fruit as a valuable community resource. Why let the 150 pounds of Bartletts from a medium-sized pear tree on Beacon Hill drop to the ground? Deliver them to a food bank, or share them with neighbors—or make pear butter.
“I know it when I see it” is how Justice Potter Stewart defined obscenity in one of the more famous Supreme Court cases in history. It’s a pretty good guide for hyperlocal, too.
- Mark Briggs
Posted: September 14th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Hyperlocal happenings, Location is everything | No Comments »
Just a quick linkfest: I’ve been posting more content on my Journalism 2.0 blog lately related to hyperlocal happenings. I want to make sure readers of this blog are aware of them, so here are some recent links:
- Sacramento Press thriving, looking to expand
- Startup news site rocking the boat in Portland
- Chaos shouldn’t cloud current opportunity in hyperlocal
Posted: September 9th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Hyperlocal happenings | No Comments »
Yahoo and Merchant Circle made news this week for deploying question-and-answer forum technology as a key part of their respective local strategies.
Yahoo is adding a section called Neighbors to its Yahoo Local pages and hoping to replicate the success it has enjoyed with Yahoo Answers. Merchant Circle, meanwhile, is launching two new features for its customer-facing side, one called Neighbors and one called Answers.
It’s clear that these companies see opportunities for engaging a local audience with targeted interactions. Message-board forums may seem like a 1990s approach, but with 2009 technology improving the user experience, a question-and-answer solution makes sense on a local level, providing a more effective and targeted networking opportunity than the huge, general experiences you find on Facebook and Twitter.
- Mark Briggs
Posted: September 8th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Starting up | 1 Comment »
Yes, according to research recently released that surveyed 549 entrepreneurs in high growth industries. In a guest post on Techcrunch, Vivek Wadhwa spells it out:
I’ve got a message for all the Silicon Valley venture capitalists who think a CEO is over the hill after age 40. Old guys rule. And they are far more likely to be the founder of a successful technology company than most of you understand. … We also learned that these founders are likely to be married and have two or more kids.
This is satisfying news when you help launch your first company the same year you turn 40, are married and have two kids (that’s me!). And you fight the nagging regret that you should have become an entrepreneur earlier in life.
Timing, patience, experience and even luck play a part in the success or failure of any startup. The age of the entrepreneur, I’d like to think, does not.
- Mark Briggs
Posted: September 3rd, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Innovative thinking, Starting up | No Comments »
I’m a big fan of Stanford’s podcast series featuring entrepreneurial thought leaders. Lately, I’ve been catching up on the old (”classic”?) installments which is interesting because – if they are 3-4 years old – you know whether the projections for the future of a certain business or market played out as the entrepreneur predicted. Since he is going to be a keynote speaker at the Online News Association conference in October (I’m moderating a session on entrepreneurial journalism), I wanted to learn a little more about Evan Williams.
I discovered Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, completely missed on his projection of where podcasting was heading in this session from May 2006. But, interestingly, he was dead on with where digital communication was heading. Check out his answer to a question about the potential of his company at the time, Odeo:
When I think about the path we are on now, enabling communication and personal expression, I think the biggest setback could be if it’s too hard to do. Which is one of the advantages of audio is that it can be really easy to do. I think people have an insatiable and ubiquitous desire for communication and personal expression. And the more ways that you enable that, as long as it’s easy, are going to be adopted in ways that we really can’t anticipate.
As far as the trend in general, I’m pretty confident. But as I said, I’m always hallucinogenically optimistic.
Take out the audio and it sounds like he’s describing Twitter. So it’s no surprise that, when the concept appeared on the company’s radar, Williams helped the company shift focus and dive in.
The challenge for any startup is determining what constitutes a viable new direction for your company, and which is a “shiny new object” that is not worth chasing. Focus, after all, is critical to success.
It also helps, of course, to be “hallucinogenically optimistic.”
Posted: September 2nd, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Building audience, Innovative thinking | 1 Comment »
It doesn’t matter how how big your audience is. It doesn’t matter how cool your technology is. It doesn’t matter how clean your design is. Building a sustainable, vibrant community of users who contribute to your content operation is no easy task.
But it’s worth the investment.
Serra Media’s software helps solve the technical challenge of building a community, but we also want to share our experience and our research on the human side. So we’re releasing the Audience Mobilization Guide that we’ve been sharing with our partners to anyone interested in specific, actionable ideas for launching, promoting and maintaining a community of contributors online.
Thanks to Amy Rainey for her efforts on this report, and the great learnings of previous projects led by Rich Gordon at Northwestern University, Mark Potts at Backfence and Dan Pacheco and all the innovation leaders at the Californian in Bakersfield.
[Click here to download the report]
- Mark Briggs
Posted: August 31st, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: Hyperlocal happenings, In the news | No Comments »
Serra Media CEO Mark Briggs chatted recently with TechFlash’s John Cook about hyperlocal news, the future of journalism and innovation.
BargainBabeLA.com, which uses Serra Media’s TownLuxe platform, was also covered today on the Kelsey Group blog and Local Onliner blog. In the post, blogger Peter Krasilovsky talked about some of the appealing deals he learned about thanks to BarbabeBabeLA.com.
Here are some highlights of the Techflash Q&A. Check out the full interview here:
What makes hyperlocal news a promising opportunity? “To me, it is that one untapped area especially for online advertising. I think there is still a lot of potential and opportunity within the digital local space because you have all of these small, little advertisers who maybe did yellow page advertisements and they couldn’t even afford the newspaper…. Now, with digital technology if you build that targeted audience, you can deliver super, highly-targeted ads that the audience is not going to see as interruptive.”
As a new media pundit, what do newspapers need to do to survive? “I think they would be smart — and I’ve always thought this — if they actually committed to being a Web site first. (If they) considered themselves a digital property that happens to put out a print product, they would be ahead of the game.”
Where should they invest? “If you had an Internet company called The Seattle Times, you’d be pouring massive amounts of resources into mobile right now. Massive. Because mobile is going disrupt news and information just as the Web did ten years ago. So maybe they missed on the Web, but they can still take advantage of mobile.”
On launching the TownLuxe local shopping service: “(My wife) looked at Newsgarden and said: ‘That’s great, Mark, but I think it really should be used for shopping…. BargainBabe.com launched our platform on July 1 and we’ve actually seen more contributions in one month to her, than we have in one month for any of our news platforms. So we think people may be more interested in contributing items about shopping, than they are about news. Shopping is something that everybody does … and everybody at one point or another has bragged about a great find at a store or a great deal they’ve got. That’s what we are tapping into.”
- Amy Rainey
Posted: August 27th, 2009 | Author: Serra Media | Filed under: In the news | 1 Comment »
This blog post was adapted from a project I did for my U.S. Digital Media Law class in UW’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program.
Twitter has quickly become a popular tool for celebrities, public agencies and businesses to share their thoughts and updates with fans and followers. But, as with most things online, there are also plenty of opportunities for people with bad motives. In recent months, a variety of people and businesses have been the victims of imposter Twitter accounts. This problem is of growing concern for those who have identities, brands and reputations to protect.
Here are a few examples of ways that celebs and businesses handled fake Twitter accounts:
- Tony La Russa, general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, sued Twitter, alleging trademark infringement, cybersquatting and misappropriation of his name. La Russa ultimately dropped the lawsuit without any settlement. This case led Twitter to launch the beta version of its verified accounts program.
- Tanner Friedman, a Michigan PR firm, sued an unknown Twitter user, “John Doe.” The firm asked the court to subpoena Twitter for identifying information about the unknown user. The court granted the motion, and “John Doe” was traced to a computer at a rival firm.
- Kanye West responded with an angry all caps blog post. Twitter then took down the fake profile.
- Shaquille O’Neal and his managers wanted to take legal action when they discovered a Twitter impersonator. But a media strategist convinced O’Neal to start his own Twitter account. Now more than 2 million people follow his constant tweets under the username The_Real_Shaq.
While La Russa chose one extreme – litigation – O’Neal went with a different strategy – reclaiming his Twitter identity. Fake accounts are often created for those who aren’t already on Twitter. But if businesses, celebrities and public figures take control and create — and use — Twitter accounts, it will make it harder for imposters. An imposter would be hard-pressed, for example, to create a fake Lance Armstrong profile now that he has a verified account with 1.8 million followers and close to 3,000 updates
Cases of Twitter impersonation demonstrate the importance of participating in social media and managing one’s identity and brand online. Businesses and public figures should monitor Twitter and other social media sites to see what’s being said about them and to find out who might be misrepresenting them. If you haven’t already, go claim your Twitter username now.
- Amy Rainey