Great advice from bootstrapping journalists

On Wednesday I posted here about a young, enterprising journalist who has taken it upon himself to carry on a local news tradition abandoned by a venerable newspaper in his community.

He’s hopeful but realistic about his venture, and he should be. Mashable! profiles some veteran journalists who’ve done the same thing, and their perspectives are very similar after trying their hand at “indie” journalism (hat tip: Shawn Smith). Some typical words of advice:

It’s a tremendous amount of hard work. If you want a nine-to-five job don’t do it. Advertising won’t be able to support you unless you have very high traffic and that will take time to build. The noise level is huge and getting louder, it is ever more challenging to stand out and build traffic.”

“I say do it. Not everyone will succeed, but I really believe that business is about gut instincts, hustling, and taking risks. Launching your own product is a part of how the market works — it respects people who have an idea and figure out how to make it a reality.”

This is what I’ve come to believe after a few months of dabbling with my own local site. As people like Tracy Record at the West Seattle Blog have commented here and elsewhere, it’s a full-time commitment like nothing else. It’s got to be an all-consuming passion/obsession.

I’m still in a testing-the-waters stage as I balance this project with some freelancing and contract work for others. Someone wants to help me monetize my site, and I love the chance to cover news that’s not being done in my area.

“The biggest startup cost is most likely going to be your time.” This by far is my biggest concern. Where to find the time to do what needs to be done on so many fronts?

I’m flattered that my take on journalism bootstrapping has been described as “nuanced, pragmatic.” Because while doing local, or hyperlocal, news sounds simple enough, it is fraught with complications and obstacles that can be cold shocks to former newsroom journalists.

But I suspect quite a few of us would rather be trying experiments like this than clinging for dear life inside a decaying media institution.


One thought on “Great advice from bootstrapping journalists

  1. Exactly. I walked away from my TV-news-management job two years ago – at the time a well-paying and seemingly secure job – but I look back now and know that within months I would have been a likely ax target – and, without it being any judgment on my personal merits/talents, deservedly a target, as that’s the kind of job that has to be jettisoned first to keep reporter bodies on the street. Just dumb luck that I happened to get out before things got ugly.


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