Student Journalists reluctant to change; New Media is on the backburner

November 5, 2008

I spent the past week in Kansas City, MO attending the ACP/CMA Convention, a collegiate media conference. As the publisher of The Quinnipiac Chronicle and a new media junkie, I was excited to learn about the new and exciting things that college journalists were coming up with. I took it upon myself to attend as many New Media sessions as possible. I could not have been more disappointed.

On a lighter note, the two best things to come out of this conference were the keynotes by Rich Beckman, a professor at the University of Miami School of Communication and Mark Glaser, Executive Editor of PBS’ MediaShift blog. I got a short clip from Mark Glaser as he was talking about consumers taking control of their media that you can see below.

So back to journalists and their thoughts on new media. Once again, I have to stress my disappointment in the sessions and presenters that were brought in to speak to the attendees of this conference. In an age where new media is becoming mainstream, one would think that experts would be brought in to teach the future leaders of the journalistic world how to use these new and emerging technologies. Instead, the presenters were college students with little experience or advisors who have not used these technologies much before this point in time.

One of the major themes of the conference was the idea that traditional media and journalism are obsolete. After talking to many students and advisers, as well as my own staff members who attended, it seems to me that people are very afraid that their jobs may be in jeopardy because of this shift in technology. I have asked many people why they are so afraid to adopt these new ideas, and one person recently responded, “I went to school for four years to learn how to be a writer, not so I can learn to edit video and make slide shows.” This is a pretty powerful statement in two ways. First, it shows the reluctance to change due to fear of the unknown. Second, it shows that students are not yet receiving the proper training and education that is needed to become a successful journalist. A journalism student who is not being taught how to write, edit video and create multimedia stories is like an orthopedic surgeon going to school and never learning how to operate on a knee.

Another trend that was talked about extensively over the week was media convergence. If the state of the industry dictates that journalists must be well versed in multimedia, then journalists should be working with the video staffs and audio staffs at their schools. There is no resource that is more valuable than your peers that often work in the same building, if not only on the same campus. These students know how to operate cameras, they know how to edit video and audio. Take advantage of their knowledge and skills, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can even assign stories to a “multimedia” staff that is comprised of writers, videographers and sound technicians and then let all departments involved use the piece for their own organization.

Basically, I am trying to say that the times are changing, and students need to recognize this and adapt to these changes. I realize that change is not always easy, but it is almost always necessary. So don’t be afraid to try something different. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As the entrepreneur in me would say, fail fast and fail often, because the faster you can make these changes in your organization, the faster you can gain an advantage over other college media organizations and be recognized as one of the leaders in your field.

As always, let me know what you think. Do you think that journalism as we know it is changing? If so, Have you adapted?


Microsoft: The Spoiled Child of the Internet

May 27, 2008

What are some things that you think a company should do when it realizes it is having trouble competing with the “big dogs”? The first thing I would think of is redesign the product. After that, maybe try to compete in a different market. And if you still can’t compete? Give up.

None of these things seem to have been going through Microsoft’s mind as they are realizing that they are not able to keep up with Google’s search business. After coming away unsuccessful from the attempted Yahoo purchase, Microsoft is now saying that they are going to be paying people who use their search engine for online shopping. According to CNBC, people who use Live Search and “who sign up for an account and buy items found using Microsoft’s Live Search cashback site will receive a percentage of the purchase price deposited into their account. When the total reaches $5, the shoppers can redeem their “cold, hard cash” via eBay Inc.’s PayPal. Microsoft said the rebates are funded with a portion of the money it collects from advertisers.”

I am constantly amazed by the economics of the internet. Seeing companies consistently overvalued and not charging for their services is one thing, but this one takes the cake. Usually a business model involves people paying you so your company can be profitable, but I have never seen a model where the company pays the customer. This rebate money is coming straight out of their advertising profits. How absurd is that? It’s like paying someone to hang out with you.

It just proves one thing to me: Microsoft is becoming like a spoiled child who, when it doesn’t get its way, kicks and screams and does everything in its power to be successful. Of course, every business wants to be number one, but it is unreasonable to think that because they have absurd amounts of money they should be able to take over any market the enter. Sometimes they just need to learn when to give up.

What do you think about paying people to gain popularity? Let me know.


Crowdsourcing as a Business Model

May 16, 2008

I have written on a few occaisons about crowdsourcing, how it works, and the benefits of it. On a tip from a commenter, I checked out a recently launched company called Local Motors. Local Motors has started their business using crowdsourcing as their main means of automobile design, in their own words, a “Web 2.0 Business Model”. They allow users to submit designs for cars based on “Competitions”. A past competition was to design “A Californian Off-Road Machine” and $1,500 (plus merchandise) went to the winner (see all entries here). The next competition is a presentation competition with a grand prize of $10,000.

Local Motors Winner

It never ceases to amaze me how great an idea crowdsourcing is. 1) Come up with something that you need designing for. 2) Turn it into a competition between amateur and professional designers. 3) Decide on a winner, either by vote or executive decision. This is all at little to no cost for the person looking for the design. For example, the average salary of a car designer is between $50K-60K per year. Local Motors just had a concept designed for $1,500. Could it be any easier?

It makes me think about the future of the graphic design idustry in general. What will be the fate of large design firms that are competing for the business of high profile clients when the clients are now paying tiny, one-time fees to amateur designers? They must be starting to feel the pressure.

So what do you think? Is basing your business on crowdsourcing a viable model? Let me know.

 


Mercedes-Benz Launches Social Network/Crowdsourcing Website

May 15, 2008

One of the most respected auto makers in the industry, Mercedes-Benz, has just launched a new social network/crowdsourcing website titled “Generation Benz”. An invitation was sent out this morning to, I assume, members of the Mercedes Owner’s Club. It is exciting to see such a well-established brand launch themselves into social media, and I am even more excited to be one of the first to be able to use it.

The site itself is rather average. Terrible UI, very simple navigation, etc. Despite that, I think that the features are pretty cool. They include:

Sessions. This section allows members to interact in real time with Generation Benz members during “Special Viewing Sessions”. The first session is scheduled for June 24th, where they will be giving a sneak peak at the upcoming GLK.

Discussions. This section gives members the ability to comment on new ideas. They include TV commercials, social commentary, polls and looks at other brands. I’ve already had the opportunity to view a new commercial for the new GLK and gave some feedback.

Studio. This is a section for users and admins to upload pictures and video (mostly about their Mercedes). There are also contests such as the “Junk In Your Trunk” contest where users post pictures of what they keep in their trunks.

Network. This is the social network aspect of the site. It allows people to view other members’ profiles and see what type of things they are interested in, what car they drive, etc. It’s very simple with limited profile information.

Other aspects of the site include: Message Center, Events, Activities, News and Polls.

Mercedes is obviously realizing that their market is about to change. With their current audience retiring and becoming fiscally responsible, members of Generation Y are beginning to go out, get jobs, and most importantly, gain some disposable income. This seems to be a good move for Mercedes as they will gain a younger audience as well as get feedback from their new target market in regards to what they like and want.They also ask which social networks their users are active in, most likely to know what to give their attention (and money) to.

I think that U.S. manufacturers should take a hint and follow suit. Maybe they can finally regain the success and prominence they once had.

Do you think this it makes sense for an auto maker to move into social media? Let me know!

UPDATE: Andrew from Generation Benz sent me a link to allow others to start joining their community. You can check it out at: www.GenerationBenz.com/insider


The Art of the Business Plan

March 23, 2008

I like to think that I am a pretty good writer of business plans. So far, I have written three: one was for fun, one was for a university business plan competition, and the third was for the Connecticut state competition. The university plan came in second in the competition, and the state plan was good enough for top four in the state. After all this writing, I figured writing a business plan to actually start a company would be the same gig. Wow, was I wrong!

I traveled down to New York City on Friday with my partner to meet with the founders of a new media marketing firm, Carrot Creative. They were kind enough to take time out of their day to look over our plan with us and give us some input on what we should add/change/remove. It turned out that pretty much everything that we had was either changed or removed. The problems that we faced was that our concept was not specific enough, and our market research was shoddy at best. They told us that to really convince a panel of judges (or a VC) that your idea is worth investing in, you have to have data to back it up.

With all that said, we dove into the market research and spent the majority of our time researching the market. At that point I realized that this was where my other plans went awry. They had tons of information about the problem and the concept of the product/company, but little information about the market. Why had I left that out of my other plans? I think it was mainly because I am an idea person.  When I come up with an idea for a company or product I get so caught up in the idea of how I’m going to revolutionize the world that I forget the most important thing … my customers. After all, they are the reason that any concept becomes successful.

Overall, it was a great day in the city with some great guys helping us out. I really learned a ton about business plans and the internet industry in general, and also started to form some great relationships. But now I know: if you have a great concept, great, run with it, but don’t forget about your market. They are the people that will either make or break your idea. Research, research, research because that is how you sell your business.

Has your business or idea been affected by a lack of research? Let me know!


Is this a Bad Time to start a company?

March 20, 2008

As I continue on my journey to become an internet entrepreneur, I continue to face decisions that will affect if I continue on my current path or not. At a time when the economy is faltering and the dollar is losing its value, it is not easy to be running a startup company. I continually ask myself whether or not I am entering the ballgame at the wrong time. I keep convincing myself that, yes, I will be able to do this and be successful.

I keep hearing that Web 2.0 has reached the high-water mark and that investors are starting to shy away from internet startups, but I hear from other people in or close to the industry that are saying the exact opposite. The same holds true with internet advertising. I read an article yesterday that stated online ads were going to decrease by billions of dollars, yet I heard from a professor that a major car manufacturer is taking money away from TV advertising and putting it into online ads. So what gives? I really just think that there is so much confusion and speculation because of the economy. No one is sure what to be doing because the future is so unsure.

Reading Melissa Chang’s article “Five reasons why a recession is a good time to start a company” gave me some inspiration and confidence to know that I may just be able to pull through and do well. Just to paraphrase, the five reasons are: 1) A recession forces founders to be frugal, 2) Recessions force entrepreneurs to take a closer look at their ideas, 3) Recessions lead to committed startup teams, 4) Startups get a head start, and 5) Recessions toughen up companies.

Hopefully all this holds to be true as I continue planning my startup. Let me know what you think.