Ten commandments for digital news entrepreneurs
I have been inspired by a book about 13 new digital media launched in Spain by entrepreneurial journalists.
The book -- Microperiodismos: Aventuras Digitales en Tiempos de Crisis -- profiles some news organizations that are defying the voices of pessimism, the economic crisis in Spain and competition from the traditional media.
The authors, Eva Domínguez y Jordi Pérez Colomé, compiled 13 stories of journalists motivated by passion, service to the community and a search for alternatives to working for big media companies.
In the epilogue, the authors summarize the lessons learned by these entrepreneurs in the "10 Commandments for Digital Entrepreneurs." Many of these commandments are ideas I have heard from other news entrepreneurs in other countries. In other words, it is not that there are rules so much as common discoveries in the new world of journalism.
The 10 Commandments of Digital Entrepreneurs
Don't look for a job. A crisis is an opportunity to be creative. Many projects get started when the founders have been laid off and have the time, desire and necessity to do something on their own. But if you have work, make the most of it. You will have more economic stability -- but much less time to devote to the project.
Create something that doesn't exist. Look at the market. There are thousands of topics that the traditional media don't cover. Not just news but a point of view or a style can be the innovation.
Pick something that you care passionately about. If you can't make a living from it right away, at least you won't be bored. If you never make a living from it, at least you will have enjoyed your work.
Work as much as you can, and then some. After coming up with the idea, the thing that is more important than talent is the time you devote to the project. Caution: this can create problems with family, friends and, above all, partners.
Recruit a team with varied skills. A group of journalists can be valuable, but without a programmer, a salesperson, a designer they amount to nothing. Varied backgrounds are essential.
You can't know everything. When you think you have mastered WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, along come Tumblr, Foursquare, Quora. When you think you write pretty well, you have to learn how to record and present on video. Learning is constant. What works today won't be enough tomorrow.
Seek multiple revenue sources. Be flexible and creative. Don't view the business side as something separate and apart: every part of your organization is essential.
You are the brand. The world has to know who you are: develop a style.
What you don't see is critical. A digital news product might look great, but don't neglect the less visible tasks of billing, training and administration.
You're going to mess up. Try again. You're going to have crackups. Then you will know what to do. You can try again. Or not.
This post originally appeared on News Entrepreneurs and was posted IJNet with permission.
James Breiner is co-director of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University. He is a former Knight International Journalism Fellow who launched and directed the Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Guadalajara.