In recent years, journalism has undergone a profound, all-encompassing change. Old hierarchy structures, job prospects, linear career steps and ways to make money have been disrupted by new jobs, new methods to self brand and new revenue streams.
One of the most important issues in this new era in journalism, which is something many journalists still dread, is how to monetize stories.
Kara Swisher, Brian Stelter and Etienne Uzac are no strangers to media entrepreneurship. Saturday morning, the three industry heavyweights discussed media entrepreneurship, new forms of storytelling and the future of journalism.
All three journalists have built successful (and profitable) news media businesses. After founding AllThingsD.com in 2007, San Francisco-based technology journalist Swisher started re/code.net, an “independent tech news, reviews and analysis site.”
“Journalists who have never owned a business, run around giving business advice and drag people down,” Kara Swisher said.
If anything, the second panelist was even more well-known than Swisher. While still in college, Brian Stelter sold his blog TV Newser to Mediabistro. He went on to work for the New York Times and is currently the host of CNN‘s Reliable Sources.
“Mobile social video. We reiterate that all the time,” said the 29-year old senior media correspondent when asked where journalism is headed.
The other young gun on the panel was Etienne Uzac, 31, CEO and co-founder of the International Business Times. The London School of Economics and Political Science graduate started IBT Media in 2006 because he thought the “established media companies were not fast enough to capture emerging media trends.”
All three panelists share an unconditional belief in social media, a focus on divergent ways of storytelling and the importance of a positive cash flow.
Most well-known new media ventures need big dollars from angel investors or venture capitalists.
“We were one of the few media companies that were bootstrapped,” Uzac said. “Venture capitalists are looking for the next unicorn.” Swisher emphasized The New York Times “shouldn’t just make $1 in profit. They should make a ton of money!” Uzac added: “Media companies need to diversify revenue streams.”
The lively and humorous discussion evoked many laughs from the audience. It is safe to say that it was mostly the ever-flamboyant Swisher who kept the attendees in stiches. After agreeing that news organizations need to be proactive, not reactive, she added: “Flexible? Adaptable? I call it bendy! My sex advice stops now.”
The three trailblazers were all about new trends and technologies. “You need people who are creative and are not entrenched in their own way of thinking,” Uzac said.
Swisher pointed out a similar trend: “A lot of people at news organizations are waiting for permission to report on a story. Try new things, see if it works and adapt. We go through a lot of reiterations at ReCode.”
Stelter joked: “I wonder if I can anchor a newscast on Twitter.” Swisher chimed in, saying she wanted to put a GoPro on one of her reporter’s heads.
If Stelter, Swisher and Uzac are right, new trends are inevitable, and the best practice is to embrace them. However, “the history of media is not one replacing the other,” Stelter said.