What it takes to become a successful media entrepreneur
Are you the Next Mark Zuckerberg?
When Jonah Peretti started BuzzFeed in 2006, it was a little viral lab with a small team of workers. Today, BuzzFeed has an audience base of over 200 million globally and has touched the $100 million mark in its revenues and has transformed into a successful global news media outlet. With an innovative idea and an entrepreneurial mindset Jonah Peretti drove BuzzFeed to its meteoric growth.
Innovative content has been one of the factors influencing BuzzFeed’s success. It increasingly uses list-form content making it easy for readers to just scan through a bulk of information. News Republic published results found by Mobiles Republic, a global news syndication company, on news reading habits of the people. The results revealed that people check news more frequently and for shorter periods of time. BuzzFeed’s list-form content confirms with this consumption trend making it increasingly popular among audiences.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of innovative and thriving news and media startups such as BuzzFeed, Mashable and Upworthy. This is largely due to a seismic shift in the media ecosystem and constant innovations in production of news and content-driven information, distribution systems and consumption mechanisms brought about by the digital age. These indicative changes have made ‘entrepreneurial journalism’ a thriving trend with journalists gradually reinventing their careers and engaging in business activities.
Journalists are now exploring new opportunities and branching out to become entrepreneurs, looking to develop the next innovative sites, products or services. So what makes a successful media entrepreneur? Although there is no definitive answer to this question, there are expert opinions and studies that aid entrepreneurs in their path to success.
Mark Briggs in his book Entrepreneurial Journalism opines that the success of a news start up largely depends on its ability to attract audiences and serve them with good quality content. He believes that by generating great content entrepreneurs can build a loyal audience base who then contribute to the venture by sharing and engaging. He states, “Audience loyalty is a crucial component of success in a news startup. Audience must be loyal and fully engaged if you want to produce dynamic, vibrant content and help your news site grow.”
Choosing the target audience is the first step towards creating a successful startup. The Knight Foundation formulated a report that details what it has learnt from several startup ventures it has funded through its News Challenge. The report suggests entrepreneurs to choose their target audience and design their venture to cater to their most prominent needs. This can help entrepreneurs to build products and services that are popular amongst their audience base.
Kim McAllister, founder and director of Impact Online, a media company specialising in PR, Social Media and Copywriting believes that a good understanding of the market is essential to spot gaps and fill them with enterprising startups. “You need to speak to people in lots of positions and understand their frustrations in order to spot opportunities,” she adds. In coming up with startup ideas within the media industry she suggests entrepreneurs to determine their competitors and target market before taking the plunge.
Besides content and a deep understanding of the market, personal characteristic traits contribute significantly to entrepreneurial success. Jose Carlos Pinho and Elisabete Sampaio de Sa in their article provide empirical evidence on personal characteristics, business relationships and entrepreneurial performance. They believe that entrepreneurial success is influenced by certain characteristics and competencies inherent in an entrepreneur.
John L. Hines, President of the Continental Illinois Venture Corporation, in his editorial ‘Characteristics of an Entrepreneur’ states that most venture capitalists, who fund startups, agree upon “honesty, intelligence and skillfulness” as the most important characteristic traits of successful entrepreneurs. John enumerates nine other characteristics that he holds in high regard namely, “energy level, ego, courage, enthusiasm, desire to make money, creativity, resourcefulness, tenacity and leadership qualities.”
Below are a few qualities that media entrepreneurs who were interviewed believe would lead them to success.
• Boundless creativity
Creativity- an ability to constantly innovate, experiment with different perspectives and solve problems differently- is the key to entrepreneurial success. Sonic Prabhudesai, co-founder and head of business and operations at CampusDiaries, a creative storytelling platform, believes that creativity is necessary in everything entrepreneurs do. “It is all about how one does something differently from their competitors in the market. This process of finding a unique selling point is being creative,” he added.
For the success of their ventures, media entrepreneurs need to be aware of the innovations and the on-going trends in the media ecosystem. “Keeping an eye on what the next couple of years are going to be like within the industry is the key to success. Any product or solution will take one to two years to be used by the masses and if by then your solution or product is obsolete, you have lost the battle,” states Sonic.
Kim McAllister also believes that having an awareness of the zeitgeist and a good understanding of the favour bank can also help entrepreneurs to scale success. “Read read read! Get newsletters from the leaders in the field (for me it's the Moz Top 10 and the Econsultancy updates),” she said.
Entrepreneurs come across several obstacles and roadblocks in their journey. Perseverance is a characteristic trait that enables entrepreneurs to deal with such challenging situations efficiently. “How you keep your cool and figure a way around a difficult situation is what separates the good entrepreneurs from the great ones. Hang in there - because you will figure it out, is what we as a team always believed at CampusDiaries,” Sonic added.
• A desire to make money
Although most journalists prefer their startups to be all about journalism, it is also essential for them to focus on the business aspect of it. Entrepreneurs may come up with ideas on a daily basis. However, if it does not make a good business model and yield good monetary results, it is highly likely that that the venture may survive. “Never get emotional with your idea, learn to let go of the idea, if it does not make business sense,” Sonic advices. According to John Hines, most people perceive the desire to make money as greed. He on the other hand believes that it should be looked upon as the will to be successful and a proof of one’s accomplishments.