CJET: Business Essentials and Best Practices
“Sell everything but our integrity”
The Texas Tribune is often held up as a model for other news startups to emulate. And editor Evan Smith is just as often held up as a leader to learn from. Interviewed via Skype at a CJET kickoff event, he urged publishers to define a mission and stick with it, be audacious – think P.T. Barnum – and be clear about what you are and what you are not. His talk inspired many publishers; and felt a bit intimidating to some.
One cited the Evan line highlighted here: “Sell everything but your integrity” as a significant takeaway. It is a new frame to define how to create a sustainable journalism business, but a confrontational one, because it challenges journalists-turned-entrepreneurs to fully embrace their seemingly conflicting missions: make money and do great work.
The tools, tips, leads and insights offered here aim to support publishers everywhere working to build sustainable news businesses.
Business Building Blocks: Preparing to succeed in business.
CJET covered a four-day curriculum in two days. The prep work guided participants to consider their publishing work through the lens of a business decision maker. These two simple questionnaires asked them to draft a basic business plan and inventory some current practices. Later, participants used the worksheets to help write a highly focused, goal-oriented 100-day action plan with specific tasks and benchmarks.
Six questions and three charts to align the essential elements of your business.
Deceptively simple; designed to introduce strategic thinking.
Know Your Revenue Mix: How does your business compare?
CJET publisher expenses in aggregate:
“The key takeaway is the heavy spending on content relative to other areas, especially sales. To achieve financial sustainability, you need a much more balanced approach, with content and sales/development getting roughly equal slices of your expenses and your attention.”
– Janet Coats.
CJET publisher revenue in aggregate:
“The key takeaway is the heavy reliance on single sources for revenue — ad sales for for-profits, foundations and grants for non-profits. It is important to diversify revenue streams, both as a means of avoiding over-reliance on one single source for your survival and as a means of reaching into different aspects of your community to build support and enthusiasm for your work.” – Janet Coats.
CJET Teachings & Tips: A collection of tools shared at CJET
A handy way to set clear expectations for your nonprofit board.
- Expectations for your board | Courtesy Charlottesville Tomorrow |
Track only data useful for making decisions, get more out of what you measure.
- Managing Media with Metrics | Courtesy USC’s Dana Chinn |
Leveraging social and emotional connections to source community funding.
- Crowdfunding | Courtesy Joseph Beyer, Sundance |
An easy, essential list of steps for more successful foundation relationships.
- Grantwriting Dos and Don’ts | Courtesy Irma Simpson, INN development consultant |
Guidelines to assess and choose tools that may add value to your work.
JA Business-Building Resources: Collected or created to help grow sustainability
Useful and practical tools, ideas and information to build a sustainable news business. From the JA collection of more than 300 cross-network resources, selected for their proven or potential value to publishers, curated to showcase their practical use; the JA blog, which highlights innovation, distills ideas and reports learnings; and JA forums, where the community shares insight, examines assumptions and surfaces risks.
- Business Model Generation
- SuBMoJour – Sustainable Business Models for Journalism
- Sustaining Hyperlocal News
- INN Report: Critical Strategies for Growing a Nonprofit Newsroom
- Guide to the IRS Decision-Making Process for Journalism and Publishing Non-Profits
- New Business Models for News
- Ten Nonprofit Funding Models
- StreetFight: Inside the Business of Hyperlocal
- Becoming an Entrepreneurial Journalist
- Measuring the Effectiveness of Paywalls for Online Revenue
- FCC Report: The Information Needs of Communities
- Easy to use index: Find emerging practices, publisher techniques and revenue forum how-to tips
- JA publisher profile: The Hawaii Independent, a profitable co-op “rooted in the community…like the Green Bay Packers.”
- JA Use Case: Five steps to pave the way toward collaborative revenue
- JA Interview: Are you H&M or couture? Business insight offered from beyond the publishing world