I write here quite a bit about my general bullishness regarding journalism startups and other experiments that I do believe will pave the way for successfully doing the news online.
But Alan Mutter reminds us of two ventures involving former Rocky Mountain News journalists that were non-starters because of misunderstood assumptions about their work, and how it would be paid for:
“The first business of a business is business. Like so many entrepreneurs, the journalists started their websites so they could do the work they wanted to do. But a business, especially a start-up, requires far more than passion for the work. It requires close attention to the nuts and bolts of raising money, making sales and controlling expenses. Above all else, it requires the discipline of living within your means until the business grows healthy enough to fund your aspirations.
“The start-up news sites failed for fundamentally the same reasons the Rocky did. People felt the universe would reward them for doing what they wanted to do, instead of doing what they needed to do to earn the patronage of readers and advertisers.
“Sorry, folks, it doesn’t work that way.”
This isn’t a told-you-so moment, but underscores the importance of gaining business and entrepreneurial skills that many journalists have never had to think about. As I’m finding out, while this is an exciting proposition, it’s also the most extraordinarily difficult thing I’ve ever undertaken.
Especially since there are no guarantees even for those wishing to try something else.