Saturday, November 10, 2007

More About Outsourcing News Production

News organizations give the impresion that they do not publish news produced by independent "suppliers." The wire services don't seem to count. And I think the concept of stringers has been around for a while. So they do source their content. Nothing wrong with that: it's efficient. (So long as it really is journalism. Trojan horse fake news packages abound: )

Yesterday I mentioned Pro Publica, a new enterprise that will produce investigative journalism for downstream distribution to newspapers. It's just the next step in the natural unwinding of integrated stages of news production. It happens naturally in industries where scale and scope economies are possible. Sometimes public policy "encourages" it as it did in the U.S. with the Paramount Decrees, the old Fin-Syn rules, the MFJ of 1982 and the 1992 Cable Act.

Here's another new kind of news "supplier" : It's photo-journalism for sale (sometimes to the highest bidder -- more about that later). Partly a response to newspapers' cutting back on their in-house photo-journalism, Brian Storm, a photo-journalist himself launched the firm because, "It’s simply not that hard to create a good financial structure for photojournalism," as he told me in an interview last May.

Storm, like Steiger with Pro Publica, recognized an opportunity. "I think photojournalism is super important to the way people understand the world."

And then, like all media entrepreneurs I call "media missionaries," he uttered these words: “I didn’t want to start this thing…You know I didn’t start it as a business…I mean I’m an entrepreneur but I’m more an entrepreneur with a mission.”

p.s. When you go to mediastorm's site, you MUST view Kingsley's Crossing A riveting story told in photojournalism.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Entrepreneur Starts Investigative Journalism Enterprise

Paul E. Steiger, editor at the Wall Street Journal is launching Pro Publica, an organization to produce and distribute investigative journalism to media outlets who've stopped producing the product themselves. See the Times story at Mr. Steiger's leap into media entrepreneurship is the clearest example I've yet seen of a media missionary doing what comes naturally to all entrepreneurs: perceiving an opportunity and acting on it. Granted, the revenue model seems to rely on cash infusions from Steiger's wealthy partners. But I see the potential for it to morph into a conventional sales model driven by a natural evolution in the business. In the same way that Henry Ford's original River Rouge model (produce every input of an automobile in a single plant) gave way to today's system of auto makers sourcing most parts, the emergence of Pro Publica looks like one of many suppliers to the news distribution sector. It's more efficient.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Media Entrepreneurs: Missionaries or Merchants?

As part of my ongoing research project on media entrepreneurship, my friend Ben Compaine and I started interviewing media entrepreneurs over a year ago. (That's how I found Bear Cahill, profiled in a previous post.) In analyzing the interview transcripts, we noticed two distinct types of media entrepreneur. One group shared the mindset common to all entrepreneurs; we labeled them merchants. The other group, however, didn't seem to fit -- they hardly seemed like entrepreneurs at all, except that they had started or were in the process of starting a media business. They talked about their reluctance in starting a business. Diving into entrepreneurship seemed, to this group, a last resort because no one else would do it. "It" was a message or mission to carry out. That group we called the missionaries. Ben recalled Ted Peterson's 1964 history of the magazine business in which he described new leaders ("new" referring to 1900 to 1940) as missionaries or merchants. The appeal of alliteration aside, the terms perfectly capture the archetypes we saw emerging. Here's my graphic depicting a continuum, from a pure merchant to missionary to a group we call "citizen-mediamakers,"whom we distinguish from missionaries in that they are not monetizing their media.

Why does it matter that there are two kinds of media entrepreneur? We believe this kind of entrepreneur may be unique to media industries. From a public policy standpoint, there are millions of potential media missionaries out there who should be encouraged to start a media enterprise. Then we'd have tremendous diversity in viewpoints and we could all stop worrying about media concentration.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I've been busy. Sorry about that.

Forgive my infrequent (that's an understatement) blogging . I hope to make it a habit to post quality updates on media entrepreneurs and media entrepreneurship.

In my research on media entrepreneurs, I've met a number of fascinating people. If these folks are typical of entrepreneurs who choose to start media companies, then the future of media and its ability to inform, entertain and engender civic engagement are in good hands. I'll introduce you to some of them on this blog. My focus is on how entrepreneurs discover or recognize a media opportunity and then exploit it.

Let me start with Bear Cahill and his media enterprise, Booples. See Bear recently launched this animation business aimed at teaching children Bible stories through song. He got the idea at a child's birthday party -- learning and singing songs is something children do very naturally. He knew about the very successful product, Veggie Tales (see He recognized a business opportunity: A dabbler in animation, an IT professional by day and evidently quite knowledgable about the Bible, he had all the inputs for a one-person enterprise in children's DVDs. He made his first videos and Booples was born. Bear has developed a low-cost promotion technique as well -- I found Booples mentioned at several blogs and sites targeting Christian audiences. I expect he is building a brand essentially for free.

Booples is a tiny business with a highly niched product. So what's important about Bear's entrepeneurship? He recognized and exploited an idea into a media business. That's one more "voice" out there in the media marketplace. If the economic census is to be believed, there are as many as 110,000 other similar small media entrepreneurs in the U.S. Imagine that on a global scale. In toto, that's a lot of voices to Rupert's single, albeit big, "voice."