Monthly Archives: February 2014

Important things to help you think through what we’ll do Thursday

Met with Andre yesterday and we talked about a few things to help you think through these problems.

For problem 2A, which deals with media organizations and how they can better use mobile: I’ve presented the problem as one media organizations have, and it most certainly IS. However, think too about USERS and what they need. What kinds of news/information/entertainment do various types of users want to get and when? Think at a local level first. How could you OPTIMIZE delivery of that content for mobile? For example, you could develop some kind of special Grizzlies app that leveraged the content that organizations like, say, the CA already produce, but with additional features unique to mobile. Think about verticals – for example, many media organizations might have a separate entertainment vertical, for example.

2C talks about MONETIZING mobile. Here too, think about users. What kinds of ads could you get on your phone that would actually be USEFUL rather than just annoying? People love getting coupons and ad circular inserts in their newspapers – what if you could get a set of relevant coupons right before you got to Target through a media organization’s app?

For problem three – it’s okay to think big there, too – zoom out. Think about ANY big breaking news event and what you might need to get on your phone. You don’t have to get hung up on the specifics too much.

Yes, you can solve a different problem, or an offshoot of one of these, but if you do, be really prepared because the first thing Andre will ask is if the problem is a real one, and he will be very, very skeptical. 🙂

Remember, everybody should bring to class at least one idea to share with us. I’d rather not, but I think I’ll assign one of the assignment grades to that to give you some incentive to think hard. I will grade very easily overall but just be prepared. 

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Important Reminders from Class 2/20

I won’t give you an assignment to comment on the readings (though please actually do them) because I want you to focus on the following. Remember, we are iterating the syllabus a little bit.
1. Study the problems to be solved. I passed out a handout on them in class, and I sent it via email as well. It is possible I may email you and add to these before next Thursday. Think about them. Maybe do a little Googling on them.
2.Come up with at one favorite startup idea that solves one of those problems and a rough elevator pitch for it. At this stage, your pitch does NOT have to be perfect, and we’ll probably talk about it/work on it a little bit in class before you give it, too.
3. If you have a different problem to solve, email me ASAP and we can talk about it.
Andre will be there next week and we’ll be really getting into this, so put some serious thought into this.

Case Study of a Traditional Local Newspaper in Germany: Berliner Morgenpost

By Robert Kohler

I chose a traditional local newspaper in Germany to focus on in this case study. The current situation of newspaper companies is quite similar in the United States and in Germany: circulation falls (note: all weblinks lead to content in English) because people get the news online, ad rates sink, publishers have difficulties  setting up paywalls on their news websites, and companies reduce editorial staff.

Berliner Morgenpost is a German regional newspaper based in Berlin. Founded in 1898, it is one of the two most important daily newspapers in the German capital. Formerly part of Axel Springer AG, one of the biggest media companies in Europe, has been owned by Funke Media Group since 2013. This company, based in Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia) and privately held by the Funke family, is one of the largest newspaper and magazine publishers in Germany.

In 2012, I interviewed Dirk Nolde, who was the head of Berliner Morgenpost’s online department at that time. The expert interview was part of a research project on mobile journalism at Ilmenau University of Technology. While reviewing the transcription this week, I found some sections that might be interesting for the purpose of this case study.

Responses to changing media landscape

It is self-evident that Berliner Morgenpost cannot only count on printed pages any more. I think one of its earliest responses to the changing media landscape  was setting up a news website. Of course users find a lot more than articles on; for example, there are interactive graphics and videos, too. Furthermore, the content is distributed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and via applications for mobile devices.

Most of the German news websites are free. Currently, there are only few newspapers charging readers for online content, such as Bild and Die Welt. But the leading national dailies Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung are going  forward with their plans to set up paywalls. Berliner Morgenpost, however, has charged online users since 2009, but only for local content. So on the website, the company capitalizes only on its main business: Berlin-related stories.

Applications for mobile devices

Another approach to building new revenue- even if these earnings are probably low and cannot fully finance a newspaper company – is providing apps for mobile devices, which offer more than traditional news content and have to be paid for by their users: Berliner Morgenpost offers iPhone and iPad apps. One of them focuses on tours in Berlin, where users find places for excursions. Another app provides historical pictures and information. While walking through the city, the app identifies sights nearby automatically and shows old views of buildings and places, as well as  information about events and persons related to this place. These apps for mobile devices show how a traditional news organization can diversify their offers and also potentially win new audiences, for example tourists.

“Reader reporters”

With the objective of focusing on regional topics, Berliner Morgenpost engages amateur journalists (so-called “reader reporters”) to write for their news website. Since 2012 these writers have reported on events, people, stories, etc. in their own district. Currently there are 26 reader reporters working for Berliner Morgenpost. The editorial staff edits and publishes their articles. This is an interesting approach towards hyperlocal journalism. Content becomes more authentic and gets closer to the readers’ interests. But one of the most important advantages for the newspaper (disadvantage for the reader reporters) is that they are not paid for their articles. Thereby Berliner Morgenpost not only reduces costs, but also benefits from new resources.

Changing methods of news gathering

Technological change also affects methods of news gathering. Berliner Morgenpost uses several devices and tools to adapt to new forms of news coverage. “The publisher provides the editorial staff with several smartphones and tablet computers”, says Dirk Nolde, former head of Berliner Morgenpost’s online department. “These devices are used for mobile reporting or live coverage.” As one of the most massive changes in journalism is the acceleration of the spread of news, the editorial department chooses specific events for mobile reporting, such as the Berlinale International Film Festival or the Berlin Fashion Week. A reporter not only does live coverage via Twitter, he also takes advantage of the iPhone camera and creates multimedia content, in combination with an external microphone. “The reporter uploads the video directly to YouTube, and afterwards an editor in the office revises and publishes it,”  says Nolde. Both the Twitter feed and the YouTube videos are embedded in the Morgenpost news website.

In order to figure out new opportunities and formats for news reporting, the Berliner Morgenpost online staff also tries out new applications and functions of devices. For example, they tested creating 360° panoramic photos of special events or places for the website. “There are always new things upcoming,”  says Nolde, “I think we will have to test new tools again and again, to find out which ones are useful for our work.”


The Berliner Morgenpost editorial staff not only creates content for the newspaper and the website, but also for several weblogs attending to certain topics. There is one blog for example which only covers the local Bundesliga soccer team Hertha BSC. “During press conferences and soccer matches, we fill this blog directly with content. For example, we embed iPhone photos via a WordPress application”, says Nolde.

These examples show that the online department of the traditional Berliner Morgenpost newspaper responds to technological changes in order to a) keep up with the speeding up of news and b) to try out new devices and tools in order to find out new forms of news presentation.

I think all kind of news organizations have to work to adapt to the changing media landscape. It seems to be a good approach to try out new devices and tools, and figure out which of them may enhance journalistic work or the journalistic product.

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Note on the syllabus

While the READINGS will stay the SAME each week – just FYI, we’ll be doing some iterating on the syllabus. This is what happens when you work with multiple partners on cutting edge stuff. So, you know. Don’t get worked up. I will always update you in multiple ways about what is going on and what is due – see email, the class blog, and what I discuss in class.

Memphis Media: Got 99 Problems? We’ve Got Startups

Updated with examples, below

Each semester, my entrepreneurial journalism students work in partnership with local accelerator and our campus Crews Center for Entrepreneurship to come up with media-related  startup ideas. Throughout the semester, we use human-centered design processes and work in teams to research and prototype these startups, including interviews with prospective users. By the end of the semester, the teams have business plans, pitches, and some valuable insights into today’s media landscape. This is part of our overall initiative to bring innovation to journalism, including our graduate certificate program.

We are at the stage of the semester where I give the students some broad “problems to be solved” to chew on in thinking about and honing their ideas for new businesses. These can be problems faced by news consumers, by advertisers, or by existing news organizations.

While we aren’t quite Stanford with all of its close Silicon Valley ties, our efforts in many ways mirror the Digital Media Entrepreneurship course they teach there, according to Ann Grimes, associate director of the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, who I met recently at the American Press Institute’s Research Advisory Group meeting in Miami. Grimes said they went to area media organizations, such as the Sacramento Bee, to come up with problems for the students to tackle. When the Bee reported they were struggling with building user engagement, students came up with a metadata tagging system designed to boost user customization. In Memphis, we don’t (YET) have the programming resources to fully build out all of our startup ideas, but we do meet with local programmers to discuss technical feasibility, and for students that want to take their idea further, we have a number of community resources we can tap to help them.

I have a number of ideas on “problems to be solved” after listening to executives of top United States newspapers from The Washington Post to the Dallas Morning News discuss in detail their needs in Miami last week, many of them surrounding the need to figure out how to monetize their mobile news audience, develop mobile products that best meet user needs, enhance stickiness on their sites, and more. But I welcome specific local problems we could incorporate – if not this semester, then soon. Our students also share what they learn with anyone who is interested in coming to our final pitch night, and in the past we’ve occasionally gone to local media orgs to give them a customized presentation.

Leave a comment here with ideas or email me at cbrown14 AT

Update Here are some examples:

Problem One Small business owners and nonprofit organizations struggle to find the best ways to get information/advertising in front of customers/donors in today’s information-saturated society and to ensure the right message gets to the right people. From Facebook to Twitter to traditional print advertisements and beyond, the number of options to reach people has exploded, but so has the amount of noise and clutter. How can they get through to people with the right message and improve the return on investment of their advertising and marketing efforts?

Problem Two News consumption on mobile devices is skyrocketing. At the Boston Globe, their traffic exceeds 50% from mobile devices for some hours of the day. At the New York Times, it is about one-third; during a breaking news situation, it is the majority of their traffic. This raises a number of important issues for news organizations:

2A) How can news organizations best meet the needs of their mobile users and deliver the kinds of content they want, when they want it on a mobile device?

2B)How can news organizations help their advertisers figure out the best ways to utilize the mobile platform to build their brand and get consumers to make purchases? And how can news organizations help advertisers realize the value of a trusted community news brand, beyond just click-through-rates, in determining what they are willing to pay?

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Note about case studies

I’m working through your case studies bit by bit here.
Some of them need a little bit of work before they can be posted on the class blog – for example, a link  attribution purposes. Always important to sweat the small stuff whenever you are posting something with your name on it on the Internet. You do not HAVE to revise them for posting, but if you do, you may improve your grade. To add links in Word, use the “Insert” tab. Highlight the text you want to use as a link. and hit the “hyperlink” button and paste the URL in there. It’s easy for me to transfer that directly to the blog.
I share this stuff on the blog because 1)You can learn as much from each other as from me and 2)There is a broad community of #jpreneurs out there who may be interested in your work, and who can, potentially, be valuable for you to tap into someday.

International Paper Branches out on Social Media

By John Stevenson 

In recent years, many Fortune 500 companies have joined the social media community. Websites like Facebook and Twitter have undoubtedly “disrupted” the corporate world, especially those corporations who historically dealt more with businesses and suppliers rather than smartphone-wielding consumers.

However, International Paper’s (IP) activity on social media was mostly nonexistent, aside from a Twitter feed of job postings and a few pages for the company’s consumer-oriented brands. That changed in 2013, when the global leader in paper and packaging began a years-in-the-making launch of its companywide Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

I joined IP’s marketing and communications team as an intern in January 2013 and was privileged to witness and assist with the development and execution of the Fortune 125 company’s social media rollout.

But why now? Why in 2013, years after the social media boom, did IP decide to plunge into the virtual domain of tweets, hashtags and timelines?

Consumers and businesses’ perception of the paper industry is complex, especially in regards to the environment. Unfortunately, numerous misconceptions exist surrounding the use of paper. These myths fuel anti-paper campaigns from entities who desire a paperless society. Since social media usage generally constitutes a two-way digital “conversation,” IP’s leaders were concerned that social media pages would give anti-paper advocates a public platform upon which to criticize the company.

But IP’s competitors were increasingly leveraging social media platforms to connect with customers and the general public.

“We needed to weigh the business value versus the potential risk,” said Jessica Savage, manager of IP’s social media initiatives and online marketing.

She began researching and learning about social media trends and best practices so that she could educate others at IP who did not see how something containing the word “social” could benefit a “business.”

Savage understood leaders’ wariness. However, she reminded them that the company “had to be okay with people saying negative things on [IP’s] social media pages” and that those messages “did not mean that [IP was] a bad company.”

“We had to provide education around the business application,” she said. “We showed them what other businesses were doing with social media.”

With extensive research and data from inside and outside of the company, IP’s social media team demonstrated how these tools could benefit the primarily business-to-business company.

“Eventually, we all felt the value did outweigh the potential for negativity or risk,” Savage said.

While social media pages would give paper-use critics a platform to voice their dislike of IP, those pages would give IP an opportunity to respond publically with fact and tact.

But IP had to be prepared to talk back. In a social-media brainstorming meeting in mid-2013, I recall one of my supervisors reminding the team that we could not respond to heated messages solely with fact. Fortunately, IP is a green-thinking business with an increasing focus on sustainability. The company has an abundance of facts and data to support their Earth-friendly efforts.

However, responding to a passionate (and upset) opponent of paper-use with mind-numbing data or statistics would not reflect the company’s investment in the environment. Therefore, IP’s social media team developed a strategy for responding to potential anti-paper messages.

In addition to telling IP’s sustainability story, Savage named the recruiting of young talent as an added bonus to IP’s social media accounts. She said that many young professionals are “looking for a company to be on social media.”

She added that IP’s social media pages also allow the company to share news items that are not “press-release worthy,” but still merit attention. She says Facebook and Twitter provide a great outlet for those “mid-level stories.”

Rather than simply avoid uncontrollable criticism on these public social media platforms, IP has put its best minds on the task of constructing a smart and thorough social media strategy that leverages the company’s respected name and brand in the digital world.

Savage notes that IP is rolling out its social media slowly and carefully, and that there is still much to do in this new digital frontier.

You can follow International Paper on the following social media platforms:




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Class Reminders 2/13

Heh, I actually thought I sent/posted this last week, and then I realized today I did not. #AbsentMindedProfessorProblems. Anyway, because I forgot, no required comment on reading questions, but please actually READ anyway. It’s good for you. 🙂

Also, I had posted this on the class Facebook page already, but if you had problems accessing the UM Drive for readings try this link.

And class Facebook page is here, if you still haven’t joined,
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Guest Speaker Chris Przybyszewski

UPDATE – Chris will be coming next week 2/21 instead. 

Hi all,

 Tomorrow we’ll have the first of several entrepreneur guest speakers, Chris Przybyszewski, founder and executive vice president at US BIOLOGIC, which has developed a product that prevents transmission of Lyme disease.
Here is a 2009 piece about him; as you can see, he has also worked in strategic management and communications and started his own video game company that was acquired. You can find him on Twitter here. Have questions!
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Class Reminders 2/6 AND Reading Questions

Hi all,


For next week, please:

STARTUP CASE STUDY: Choose an innovative media-related startup you admire or find interesting.  As you did last week, do a little research on them, check out their website, social media presence, etc. and write up what you learned. What have they done well? What kinds of attitudes or techniques might you adopt from them?  What problem do they solve? Think like a business person as well as an audience member – where is their revenue coming from? What is their content strategy (assuming they have one)? Their marketing strategy? Send this to me in a Word document, and be prepared to talk about it in class. I will post good ones on the blog.

Read: E. Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership Chapter 1 and 2 and 13 on UM Drive

Clayton Christensen Innovator’s Dilemma Introduction and Chapter 2 of the Innovator’s Solution On UM Drive

Kets de Vries in Leadership Mystique Chapter 7 The Rot at the Top & Chapter 8 Achieving personal and organizational change on UM Drive

In a comment on this blog post, answer the following questions:

Describe, briefly, one reason organizational change is challenging.

Describe one other thing you find interesting or relevant from readings or lecture.

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