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					Entrepreneurial Journalism

Prof. Adam L. Penenberg

Course Description

Journalists who can successfully navigate these turbulent media times must
be equal parts journalist and entrepreneur. In this seminar students will learn
how to build successful freelance careers, manage their own journalism
brands that they will extend through social media platforms like Twitter,
pitch ideas for media start ups, write their own business plans or book
proposals, and explore ways to attract venture capital. There will be a lot of
learning by doing. Students will work as media entrepreneurs and run their
own online publications, which they will operate as a business. At its center
will be a blog, where students will post several times a week. They'll retain
an ad server, market their work to the blogosphere (and beyond) and track
traffic. The semester will culminate with students either drafting their own
business plan for a media start-up that they will pitch in class to a venture
capitalist, or penning a formal book proposal, which a literary agent will also
critique in class. Guests will include well-known journalists, successful
media entrepreneurs, literary agents and venture capitalists.

Required Material

Crush It: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion, by Gary

Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses
Grow Themselves, by Adam L. Penenberg.

Made to Stick: Why Some Idea Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini.

In addition, you must set up your own online publication on a service such
as Wordpress, Ning, or Typepad, which, depending on the
package you choose, may include modest costs. Sign up for an ad server
such as Google Adsense or Technorati Media (among others) and track your

click-through rates and advertising revenue, deploy Google Analytics to stay
aware of your traffic, and maintain a balance sheet of expenses and
revenues. And use Twitter and other social media to promote your

You As Media Entrepreneur

The centerpiece of your publication will be your blog, which you must
update several times a week (minimum 4 posts/week). If you don't offer
regular fresh content, you can't attract a loyal audience. You must also set up
a reader comments feature, so your audience can offer their views on your
work, and if you publish on Ning, foster social networking on your site.

NO DEGRADING COMMENTARY. The Web is forever, and anything you
post there can be permanent. A word to the wise: don't publish anything that
could come back to haunt you later in life. Think about whether you want
your name (your brand) associated with profanity, general nastiness, or
settling scores. This doesn't mean you shouldn't offer critical opinions–on
the contrary, I encourage it–but when you do, back them up with facts and
use language that would be acceptable to a mass audience. In addition, there
will be a comments section for each post. You will be responsible for
checking any comments on your blog entries; if any of them are offensive,
delete them.

It's a waste of time if you post a link to an article online with a quick note
encouraging readers to "check this out-—interesting story in the dead tree
press on fat-free mashed potatoes in today's New York Times," or something
like that. If you don't have something interesting to say, don't post until you

Here is a brief list of worthwhile blogs to serve as potential models:

The Long Tail: (Chris Anderson,
Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, maintains a blog to help him research
his books.)

Musings of a VC in NY: (The blog of Fred Wilson, a
venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures.)

Buzzmachine: (Jeff Jarvis covers all things

PressThink: (NYU
Professor Jay Rosen's blog on media.)

Huffington Post: and Daily Kos: (liberal politics.)

Little Green Footballs: and
Instapundit: (conservative politics)

Andrew Sullivan: (independent politics).

Techcrunch: (gadgets and technology)

Mashable: (social media)

Want to see who is citing your blog entries or linking to you? Search your
name at Technorati:


In addition to your blog, there will be the following assignments:

*Three (3) Q&As (750 words) with media entrepreneurs that you post to
your blog.

*Capstone: Either a formal business plan or full book proposal (your

*In-class presentation: Your blog and an analysis of what worked and what
didn't, traffic, ad revenue, etc.


We only meet once a week, so I expect you to attend every class. The only
excuse that NYU accepts for skipping class is a death in the family or severe
illness. And don't be late: it's disrespectful to your classmates.


40% = The success of your publication, most notably the quality of your
written assignments, the look and feel of your site and its ultimate
profitability based on traffic and ad revenue, and your ability to increase
readership over the course of the semester. By the end of the semester you
must have a minimum of 40 blog posts.

40% = Your business plan or book proposal.

20% = Class participation.

File your assignments to me via email as MsWord attached documents
and label them YOURLASTNAME.JE.DATE.DOC. (For example,


Week 1      Course overview
            Setting up your online publication.
            Media entrepreneurs and creating a successful online media
            business; cpms, cpcs, unique visitors, page views and other
            How to use Twitter.

Week 2      Media convergence and the future of newspapers, magazines
            and books; the shifting balance of power between media and
            advertisers as the Internet disrupts traditional economic models;
            can bloggers make money? "Blown to Bits": how innovation
            can actually destroy a traditional business.
            Survey of the media entrepreneurial landscape.

Week 3      Panel discussion with three successful freelance writers:
            Freelance survival tips, generating ideas and tailoring them to
            publications, pitching stories, budgeting time.
            Social media: Creating a journalism brand and discussion of
            Crush It.
            Due: 750-word entrepreneur Q&A, posted on your blog.

Week 4   In-class presentation: Is blogging journalism? Tagging; citizen
         journalism v. the mainstream press covering fast-breaking news
         (Madrid bombings, etc.) Transparency v. balance. Objectivity
         as objective truth: a fair and balanced look at the concept of fair
         and balanced; what is social media?
         Panel discussion: Blogging for a living with three successful
         bloggers, ethical conundrums, revenue schemes of blogs,
         extending reach and growing audience.
         Keyword tools and search engine optimization: Tweaking
         headlines and posts to be more search friendly and increase

Week 5   Discussion of Viral Loop: Building a billion dollar online
         business from scratch; viral companies, viral networks, viral
         marketing—Mentos/Diet Coke, Jib Jab, "Lazy Sunday," and
         other viral videos. The concept of "collective curation" and how
         digital technology is changing Hollywood's traditional power
         structures. The search for the new ad unit.
         Discussion of paid v. free revenue models in journalism.
         Due: 750-word entrepreneur Q&A #2, posted on your blog.

Week 6   Anatomy of a successful business plan: Dissect several business
         plans and case studies in class for form and content.
         Panel discussion: Three media entrepreneurs on how they
         created successful media businesses.

Week 7   The art of the book proposal
         Bootstrapping, seed capital and venture capitalists: The plusses
         and minuses of outside funding.
         The online ad industry, referral models, and other ways to make
         money on the Internet.
         Facebook widgets, iPhone apps, and other marketing schemes
         in publishing.

Week 8   The changing computer interface: How we interact with
         computers, cell phones, PDAs and how this affects culture; the
         future of computers and why the mouse, keyboard and screen
         combo may soon be extinct.
         Due: 750-word entrepreneur Q&A #3, posted on your blog.

Week 9    Discussion of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. What
          did you learn that you could deploy in your next story pitch,
          business plan or book proposal.
          Social networking as biological imperative, branding and the
          human brain, hormones, and tapping into behavioral economics
          to help your media business.
          Funding: Tricks and techniques for applying for media grants.

Week 10   Roundtable: Guests that include journalists, publishers and
          entrepreneurs will discuss the future of media. What are the
          emerging trends and how can the savvy entrepreneur take

Week 11   Due: For those who chose it, first draft of a formal business
          plan, which we will workshop in class with a guest media
          entrepreneur and/or venture capitalist. Each student will present
          his or her work.

Week 12   Due: For those who chose it, first draft of a formal book
          proposal, which we will workshop in class with a guest literary
          agent. Each student will present his or her work.

Week 13   Student presentations (part 1): Walk the class through your
          online publication; discuss traffic, ad revenues, explain what
          you did to market your site to the blogosphere and beyond,
          hopefully show an increase in the number of visitors to your
          site over the course of the semester, etc. As a business were you
          successful? What did you learn from the process?

Week 14   Student presentations (part 2): Walk the class through your
          online publication; discuss traffic, ad revenues, explain what
          you did to market your site to the blogosphere and beyond,
          show an increase in the number of visitors to your site over the
          course of the semester, etc. As a business were you successful?
          What did you learn from the process?
          Due: Capstone. Final draft of your book proposal or business

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