Entrepreneurial Journalism And Writers As Brands

In something which is hard to witness as both a PR professional and writer, thousands of journalists around the country at major newspapers are being laid off or offered severance packages to quit. You’ve probably read local stories in whatever area of the country you’re in about downsizing and layoffs at your major daily of choice. You may have also seen your local community newspapers closing their doors.

I have written previously on how newspapers have much to learn about the web (and they do), and how local community newspapers need to evolve, but let’s not focus on the people making the decisions who have unfortunately ignored the writing on the wall. Let’s focus instead on the journalists, and all people who write for a living.

There is a lot of buzz in both the public relations and newspaper industries with uneasiness and anxiety for the future. The current layoffs are unfortunate, and definitely sad, don’t get me wrong – I honestly feel bad for these people.

What is not sad, however, is the shift in power and influence away from monolithic publications to individuals and smaller groups with enthusiasm for writing, who have had their passions set afire by new tools.

I would like to argue a more positive and optimistic view of things to come for talented writers who have passion and are open to using new tools.

The truth is, there has never been a better time to be a passionate writer
The web enables anyone to create their own, personal brand of media and share their ideas with thousands or even millions. When you develop content for a publication that is all your own, you:

  • Retain 100% of the rights to your work
  • Maintain editorial control and total freedom to write on whatever you please
  • Retain 100% of the advertising revenue brought in by your work
  • Are working to build your own brand and web property
  • Are creating something that works for you and makes revenue while you sleep
  • Are free to work on your own timetable
  • Are free to work from wherever you want, whenever you want
  • Can create a group of people loyal to you who will work to promote your content (similar to what Kevin Kelly suggest with 1,000 True Fans, but for writers)
  • Begin to build your own network and carve out influence in your writing niche

I know it must seem hard to be a journalist right now. But, when you see all the examples of singular people who have created blogs and websites with far more traffic (and ad revenue) than many traditional publications with much larger staffs, you really get a clear glimpse into what is possible to achieve in this space.

If you’re an all-star writer, guess what? The web enables you to be the writer, the editor and the publisher all in one and be fully recognized for your work. This is different than freelancing, this is being self-employed, personally empowered and running your own business.

If you’re a professional writer, you already have an advantage over the amateurs who are using web publishing. If you’re not out there building your personal brand, you are letting a huge opportunity slip away. There’s a constant flux of new people on the web daily – every moment you wait you lose potential subscribers by not being in this space.

An example of someone who is not a writer by trade now making 6 figures yearly from blogging:
Steve Pavlina is not a writer by trade. He is a video game designer with a passion for personal development. Yet, he has created a personal development blog that has enabled him to focus all of his attention on his passion, which is personal development.

Check out this post to see how much he’s making (1,000$/day, and that was back in 2006 –by now he is even farther ahead of that). Notice how simple his site is too. He focuses entirely on the content which has created his skyrocketing popularity as a blogger and personal development expert. He even landed a book deal.

Darren Rowse is another member of the 6 figure club, as is Jeremey Schoemaker.

An example of a journalist who expertly uses blogging to her advantage
Sarah Lacy has reported on startups and venture capital in Silicon Valley for nearly a decade. She writes Valley Girl, a biweekly column for Business Week and co-hosts Tech Ticker on Yahoo! Finance. Sarah is also a passionate author, and recently wrote a fantastic book called “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good”.

So clearly, Sarah is doing all the things a traditional journalist and author does. But, she’s smart – she has taken it a step further and created a blog and website for herself.

She uses that platform as a place to gather and interact with all her fans and give them a personal dose of Sarah in a frequent yet informal format. Following her blog has allowed me to forge a personal connection with Sarah and learn and be inspired from her in a different way than her articles and book have.

Sarah understands the value of creating a brand for herself around her writing. While her main income is writing for others, she is using her blog as a powerful tool to forge deep relationships with her fans and other professionals. Thanks to the web, many readers follow writers they enjoy even closer than publications. Would TechCrunch be the same without Michael Arrington?

Imagine the added value here if Sarah ever wanted a new writing gig – she can mention the fact that she already has a blog with a loyal fanbase who will read any new piece of content she produces, as they know it is going to be something they enjoy. Although Sarah is well known, a lesser known writer could certainly use their blog to showcase some of their writing – it’s a pretty powerful way to stand out (if the writing is great). For a writer, having a blog is the best living resume you can have

These are just two examples, there are many more. Certainly the most in-demand writers of tomorrow are working hard already at this in their own way. Some have already had so much success, they have been able to build a blogging network.

Resources for writers who aren’t publishing their own brand on the web yet, but want to start
If the technical part of developing your own site on with the proper networking and SEO in place seems daunting, there are plenty of sources here to help.

Here are some of the absolute best sites you should subscribe to and read-up on:

CopyBlogger (Copywriting advice for bloggers and online marketers)
ProBlogger (Helping you make money from blogging)
Freelance Switch (Freelance advice and freelance jobs)
AnyWired (Written for anyone who works online or wants to start, including freelancers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and telecommuters)
DoshDosh (Helping you make money online)
DailyBlogTips (Articles on design, promotion, SEO, monetization, WordPress and more)

If you’re serious about online publishing and want to successfully make it a part of your life, I recommend not only subscribing but diving through the content on those sites deeply. Go through the archives – many of your questions have probably already been answered and you’ll learn a lot during the process.

I also recommend using WordPress as your CMS. Go here to read up on it and get a free copy – it really easy and straightforward to use, and has enabled millions of people without any background in HTML or programming the ability to publish easily.

Be sure to also get your own .com for your blog as well, as you want to be in complete control here and able to manipulate all aspects of your site. Don’t be tempted to use Blogger or another service to host your pages. It’s really cheap to purchase and host your own site, and there’s no reason not to do it.

Once you’re up and running, be sure to read everything you can – there are so many articles and people who will help you take your beginning blogging to the next level.

Still confused? Not the DIY type? I am available for consulting if you’d like to drop me a line. I can also highly recommend Chris Garrett who has a fantastic blog consulting program. If you need a beautiful, professional blog design done, I would recommend Van SEO Design or Wake Interactive.

Conclusion

In every industry, technology enables new, exciting and more efficient methods of working. Just like a pilot may have to retrain themselves for the next class of jets launched by Boeing, journalists and writers will have to embrace the newest tools. It is not scary, and in fact just the opposite – those I have spoken with personally who have adjusted to the web have found new passion for their writing and new sparks have been ignited within them. Feel free to share this article with any fellow writers/journalists, as I do want to see them succeed and embrace the new tools our industry has been given to thrive.

Related articles from The Future Buzz:
Web Clips – Worth Far More Than Print Clips

Online Publishers And The Ad-Supported Model

For Music And News Industries – Power Is Now With The People

Related articles from around the web:
Newspaper Guy Worried That Fewer Voices Are Heard Today; Apparently He’s Never Been Online

After Layoffs: Newspapers Get Smaller, Pew Study Finds

The Rage Of The Squeezed-Out Print Journos