Professor Jeff Jarvis, Spring, 3 Credits.
This course will give students a firm grounding in the dynamics—the pressures and opportunities—of the news industry now and in the future. Leading executives from the media industry—national, local, digital, newspaper, magazine, broadcast—will instruct the class in how their businesses work today in the context of digital disruption. Students in the class will then look for key opportunities to disrupt the industry, selecting a target for disruption and formulating a strategy (an exercise that even the legacy companies should be undertaking to understand the competitive landscape). They will then formulate a strategy for defense against the disruption. In parallel with the business-basics course, students will study advertising, subscription, e-commerce, and other revenue streams as well as marketing and distribution, sometimes using case studies; the two courses will sync their subject matter. Students will also discuss larger trends, such as the impact of the link economy on media.
● Understand the key forces in a media business today: product, audience, revenue, marketing, distribution, globalization, costs and risks.
● Understand changes brought about by new technologies: new efficiencies, changed economic relationships, and the growth of platforms and networks.
● Learn how to find opportunities for disruption and then create defenses against it.
● Learn how to complete a media analysis project, developing crucial collaborative skills.
● The Gutenberg Revolution by John Man, for an understanding of disruptive technology. Students will read the book before the course begins.
● PaidContent.org,TechCrunch and Mediagrazer on a regular basis, with class discussion.
● Newsonomics by Ken Doctor.
● Readings from What Would Google Do? by Prof. Jarvis.
● Readings from The Cluetrain Manifesto by various authors.
● Note on Business Model Analysis for the Entrepreneur – Harvard Business School.
Students will maintain a New Business Models for News digital journal throughout the course, where they will post written responses to the readings, analyze issues raised in class discussions, and develop their thinking on the core topics of the course. Each week students will respond to a particular issue or set of questions presented in class. These weekly responses will include, but not be limited to, a writeup of ethical standards for a startup journalism business, in Week 14 of the course. As students develop their thinking through the course, students will share their journals with classmates, who will read and respond to selected journal entries as part of a collaborative peer review project.
Week 1: Setting the stage for disruption
The class will examine how various industries — newspapers, travel, retail — have been disrupted by the Internet. We will review how Gutenberg disrupted the economy and society in his time and how he founded a new industry as an early capitalist. We will examine the recent history of the news industry and how it arrived at this juncture. Then we will discuss the pressures in the media business today and the opportunities in disruption for entrepreneurs as context for the course.
We will also set the stage for ongoing discussion of new ethical issues that arise when journalists start and run journalism business enterprises; when disruption yields economic pain; when technologies change the forms of journalism.
As a group project, the class will select a target to be disrupted based on vulnerability and opportunity and will research the dynamics to present a plan two-thirds of the way through the course. In the last third of the course, the class will take on the role of the disrupted company and formulate a strategy to defend against the new competitor.
Assignment: The class will start a wiki to determine and delegate research tasks for the group project.
Readings: On an ongoing basis, students will read the blogs listed above and we will begin each class discussing relevant news about startups and changes in the industry.
Week 2: Inside mainstream media
The New York Times Martin Nisenholtz, head of digital strategy for The New York Times Company, has agreed to teach the class the dynamics of his business at the newspaper and NYTimes.com: advertising, marketing, technology, content costs, relationships, competition.
Assignment: The students will discuss and agree upon their disruption target and list areas of research.
Week 3: Inside an online start-up
Business Insider Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider, has agreed to give a parallel view of the media business from his perspective at a small, bottom-up, disruptive start-up, covering the same dynamics as Nisenholtz in addition to investment and risk.
Assignment: The students will have agreed as a group to their research interests and we will set due dates for research.
Week 4: Inside other media
A panel of representatives from magazines, broadcast, and business-to-business will answer students’ questions about the dynamics of their businesses today.
Assignment: Members of the class will report back research questions and findings for discussion.
Week 5: New business models for news — top down
Having heard about the strategies and operations of businesses across various media, the class will learn and discuss the dynamics imposed by the internet through various perspectives, such as the link economy, engagement vs. reach, abundance vs. scarcity, and the metrics used to measure value and success, often taking advantage of research being performed by the Tow-Knight Center.
Week 6: New business models for news — bottom up
The class will dive into the local ecosystem business models built by the Tow-Knight Center to understand how these enterprises can work and also to use skills they are learning in their management course to analyze models.
Assignment: Each member of the class will research a local news startup to understand its content and revenue models for use in the following week’s discussion.
Week 7: Inside local
Having gained perspective across media and studied new models for local news, the class will now investigate local businesses from newspapers to blogs to Patch, applying their knowledge and research to understand where the opportunity and risk lie and to draw up optimal relationships in the local news ecosystem.
Week 8: Revenue — advertising
The class will dive deep into the workings of advertising as a revenue stream: How it is valued to advertisers, sold, and measured; new models for marketing; how Google works. An ad salesperson will visit the class to discuss how advertising is sold, giving another perspective on the lessons taught in Prof. Caplan’s business fundamentals course.
Assignment: For the following week’s discussion, the class will spend a budget to go behind pay walls of various sites using various models to report back on the method and value they find.
Week 9: Revenue — consumer payment
The class will examine models that take payment from customers, including primarily pay walls and subscriptions of various types as well as e-commerce and events.
Assignment: The class will prepare its joint presentation of its research findings for the following week.
Week 10: Disruption research reports
Each member of the class will summarize research and the students will use class time to hold a meeting that they run to finalize a strategy and rough business plan to create a disruptive business attacking their target.
Assignment: The class will assign each other tasks to now take on the role of the disrupted company to develop a defensive strategy they will formulate the following week.
Week 11: Disruption — offense and defense
The students will work through a presentation of their disruptive strategy, which they will present in the 14th week. In this session, they will discuss and begin to formulate a defensive strategy as well.
Assignment: The students will divvy up sides and assignments to prepare two presentations.
Week 12: Marketing
The class will explore marketing strategies for media, concentrating on viral tactics — (Why and how would people recommend your service?) — and on the metrics used to measure success. We will cover search-engine optimization, the exploding growth of peer links, fame mechanisms, distributed strategies, brand strategies, and more. This will be done in parallel with Prof. Caplan’s course.
Week 13: Starting up
With an entrepreneur as guest speaker, we will examine the tasks and timetables that go into a startup: raising capital in phases; ownership structures; recruitment; and so on. The students will have faced many of these issues regarding their businesses in the incubation course; in this session we will get practical advice from entrepreneurs who have faced these challenges.
Week 14: Disruption strategies
Nisenholtz and Blodget — or equivalents — will revisit the class as each group of students presents strategies to disrupt an incumbent player and to defend against that disruption— backed up by their research. The guests will question and critique each group. Then we will discuss the disruptive elements of the students’ own business ideas.
Assignment: Each member of the class will write a set of ethical standards for his or her own businesses addressing journalistic norms and conflicts raised by his or her own business in conjunction with advertising, marketing, relationships with various constituencies, and disruptive behavior.
Week 15: Wrap-up — ethical standards
As a concluding element, before sending the class out into the entrepreneurial world, we will discuss their greatest hopes and how to achieve them and their greatest fears and how to avoid them. We will also share and discuss the ethical standards proposed and detailed in the previous week’s assignment. We will discuss some of the challenges associated with maintaining ethical standards as a startup business develops. Students will offer suggestions to one another for refining and strengthening their ethical standards.
Challenges of Change
Finally, the course will conclude with a discussion of some of the challenges of change. Whether they start businesses, work in startups, or go to work in legacy media companies, students will leave the school as change agents. Change brings fear and resistance, and students should be prepared to understand the reactions to — and consequences of — their actions.
Written Assignments – New Business Models for News Digital Journal: 25%
A key component of the course grade will be the written work students produce throughout the term as part of their New Business Models for News digital journal. Grading of the written work will occur periodically throughout the term, so that students have an opportunity to learn from the assessments and to improve their work over the course of the term.
Written and Oral Individual Project Presentation: 25%
The second major form of assessment, also accounting for a quarter of the final grade, will be based on a formal presentation delivered to the class, summarizing a reasoned analysis of a particular mode of disruption that has affected a media sector studied in class. This will include both a written and an oral component distinct from collaborative group project work.
Classroom Participation: 25%
The third component of the course grade will be classroom participation. Students will be expected to act as journalists with guests, asking probing questions to help everyone in the class better understand the complicated issues at hand. They will be expected to generously share their insights and experience in class discussions. They should take advantage of opportunities in class to address key issues they have identified—along with faculty and mentors—in their own businesses.
Group Project – Written and Oral Presentation: 25%
The final component of the assessment will be determined by a student’s contributions to a final joint research and a group presentation delivered as part of the disruption project. This project is distinct from the individual written and oral presentation submitted earlier in the course.
Syllabi for Entrepreneurial Journalism Courses