Imagine what it's like to jump from one moving vehicle to another. That's what it feels like for those who decide to make the transition from journalism to business and undertake a media project amid the changes that the journalism industry is going through.
The challenges of this transition were among the main topics of an IJNet webinar with media leaders from Latin America, the Middle East/North Africa and Asia Pacific.
The overall theme, "How to build sustainable journalism models worldwide," is an open question with few conclusions and many possibilities. At one point, one of the participants mentioned that an important step to succeeding in this task is to change one's internal "chip" or mindset. This means we must stop thinking exclusively as journalists and incorporate the logic of business.
The (not easy) transition from journalism to business
This is a process that can generate enormous resistance from those who are programmed with the journalistic mindset — after all, we have learned that editorial and commercial sides must (or should) be as separate as church and state.
But all of a sudden, you are in a new position that puts you in the intersection of both sides and there is no way to push a potential business forward without changing your chip, which does not necessarily mean blurring boundaries but coordinating them.
The longer this change takes place, the worse it gets. I only realized that I needed to change the chip a bit late in the development of Festivalando, a site I co-founded, at the expense of a lot of energy and time invested with no return.
I asked the webinar participants how they changed their chips, and if it's any consolation I saw I was not the only one to make the transition a bit late or with some difficulty.
More important than that, however, was that all the answers converged in the same direction: above all, learning, studying. It is also part of the process not to offer resistance to the business world and to take action and put ideas into practice.
Here is what they had to say about changing their mindsets:
Fabiola Torres, ICFJ Knight Fellow and co-founder/editor of Peru's OjoPúblico
We [Torres and the co-founders of the website] worked as journalists in the most important newspaper in the country. We were just thinking about the stories, the sources, and we didn't care about how the business worked or how to have more impact... Now, it is very important to plan strategies to disseminate our stories.
Don't be afraid of having to learn something new from scratch... We are always learning. Also, do not wait until your product is perfect... Just do it.
Larry Ryckman, editor of The Colorado Sun
We are just doing what has to be done. ... We are all journalists, but we are quickly learning that we have to be marketers as well — particularly on social media — and quickly learning the business skills... and that part has been sort of fun. I think it's a good day when you learn new skills.
Alan Soon, co-founder of The Splice Newsroom, focusing on Asia
I truly believe we're in the golden age of the media... Everything we want to learn about how people use technology, how people get information, how people learn is all available almost in the palm of our hands. The barrier... for us to explore new options for media startups has never been better. I could not have built a media business — the way I have — 10 years ago, definitely not 15 years ago.
The things you want to learn can be learned just by Googling: you can learn about how to run a business, how to bring people together; there is incredible content about entrepreneurship... I encourage everyone who is looking at entrepreneurship to go and explore the great resources out there.
Watch the full webinar here:
Main image under CC license via Flickr by Jon Sullivan