Michelle Ferrier shares startup tips at journalism conference

Media entrepreneurship comes in many sizes and would-be entrepreneurs should consider how their passions might grow into full-blown enterprises, said associate professor Michelle Ferrier at the National Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia on Aug. 12-13 in Philadelphia.

Michelle Ferrier

More than 40 journalists gathered to get answers to monetization, promotion and marketing and to get feedback on their personal projects. In April 2010, Ferrier launched www.LocallyGrownNews.com, a for-profit online community for growing communities through local food with $10,000 in grant funds from the McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs program. She’s used the lessons learned from this startup venture to mentor new teams toward product development and funding.

Ferrier, in the School of Communications, presented in two sessions. In one, “Journalists as Entrepreneurs: Four Steps for Launching an Online Business,” Ferrier offered four tips for would-be entrepreneurs:

1. Develop an evangelical fervor. Build the business because you love the content. Whether your niche is nightlife, government, food or data visualization, entrepreneurs should be passionate about their topic…they’ll be living it 24/7.

2. Learn to dance with uncertainty. Every day is different and requires juggling multiple, competing priorities. Entrepreneurs must be comfortable operating on micro and macro levels, thinking about growing the business as they edit copy.

3. If you build it, money will come eventually. Entrepreneurs must build audience and shouldn’t expect to jump out of the box with advertising revenue unless it is a passive model like Google AdSense. Entrepreneurs should also develop multiple revenue streams for their business…and be creative about what those products and services might be.

4. Know your audience and where they live. With all the platforms from Twitter to Facebook and Google Plus, media entrepreneurs must know where their audience lives. Businesses may need to develop multi-platform strategies to engage splintered audiences.

Ferrier also was an invited speaker for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force membership meeting where she shared the design, build, pitch model she’s developed with the Journalism That Matters Create or Die series. The latest of these events was held in June at UNC-Greensboro. Several projects created by teams of journalists, technologists and community activists are currently in development, supported by grants they received at the event. Teams are also currently seeking funding from foundation and angel investors.