This is what startup news success looks like

Ideas are cheap and execution is everything.

I’ve been saying this for a long time so it was with great pride that I was able to help build a two-day seminar the Poynter Institute for rookie journo-entrepreneurs packed with real examples of amazing execution.

In past entrepreneurial workshops and bootcamps, we tried to teach all topics related to starting a business, from incorporating, accounting and legal to time management and software tools. Each time we heard from students that they wanted more help with making money, which of course, is the lifeblood of any business. Without it, you die.

So we decided to stage a seminar focused solely on make money and Revenue Camp for Journalists was born. Highlights included:

  • Mike Orren, who founded and sold Pegasus News, with a deep dive into online advertising. It was the best lesson on the topic I’ve seen.
  • Rebecca Lovell, chief business officer at GeekWire and former executive director of the Northwest Entreprenuer Network, taught us how to stage a successful money-making event. (She has organized hundreds in her career.)
  • Chris Seper, founder and CEO of MedCity News, provided amazing detail on how this innovative Cleveland-based startup makes money with custom content, events, advertising and more.
  • Rafat Ali, who founded and sold paidContent, added important perspective from someone who covered the topic of making money with content as a journalist and is someone who raised a serious round of investment in his previous startup before having a successful exit. (Ali is about to launch a new project called Skift which is at the intersection of data and travel, he says.)

It’s an amazing experience as an author when the people and companies you write about come to life before you. (The dirty little secret of writing books is that most of the interviewing is done over email and phone.) As engaged as I was in every presentation, I know the attendees – 22 in person and another 100 online – were even more so, having been blessed with detailed, actionable information and guidance.

The key takeaways from my perspective:

  1. Think of your project as a product. Not media. Not journalism, Rafat said.
  2. Be customer-focused. Listen to them and make what they want, not what you want.
  3. Test your idea with as many people as you can. Follow the scientific method: you have a theory, now find some proof it will work.

If you missed the coverage on Twitter, here are links to some cause and effect essay topics and roundups of each of the sessions during the two-day event:

Part 1: Traits of successful journo-entrepreneurs and how to make money with advertising

Part 2: Making money with events

Part 3: Making money with subscriptions

Part 4: MedCity News and its diversified revenue model

Part 5: Buidling a business by Rafat Ali

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