Posts Tagged ‘media entrepreneurship’

Media entrepreneurship abounds

June 13, 2014

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Media Management & Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) (

Benjamin Jarvis, a recent graduate of Texas Tech University’s media strategies program, pitches his startup concept, COMM,in Dr. Graybeal’s Media Entrepreneurship course.

Media entrepreneurship is hot right now.

For starters, look no further than popular culture for signs that media entrepreneurship is in vogue.  The new HBO comedy, “Silicon Valley” centers on an up-and-coming music website startup (with a killer compression code) called Pied Piper. The show is similar in subject matter to an Amazon original show, “Betas,” a comedy that focused on a group of entrepreneurs in an incubator creating a new social networking dating app.

The two comedies spoof the Bay Area tech culture with companies and characters similar to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Twitter and Google among others.  Lest you think these shows have everything to do with entrepreneurship and innovation and little to nothing to do with MEDIA entrepreneurship, I would point you to Cindy Royal’s recent Nieman Lab post proclaiming, “media is tech.” (The Texas State University journalism professor has a unique perspective having just completed a year-long fellowship at Stanford University).

Need further proof of the popularity of media entrepreneurship? Look at ABC’s hit television show, “Shark Tank,” where investors pitch their products and ideas before a panel of “shark” investors. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who made a fortune selling to Yahoo! in the late 90s, is the resident “media shark.”  But other sharks have also funded media and tech companies; while the show features entrepreneurs from all walks of life, media companies appear rather frequently. Just this season, a couple sold Cuban on a children’s book recommendation website, for instance.

While not every entrepreneur is as fortunate to hook a big fish investor, many other startups turn toward social networks to raise funds for their ventures.  Many media products, ranging from album releases to independent films, have been funded through popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. 

Legacy media companies are also getting into the game of making entrepreneurial investments. Turner Entertainment started an accelerator program called Media Camp that provides mentoring and seed funding to a handful of promising media startups each year. They’re not alone.

For the past two years, Sprockit has showcased a few dozen promising media startup companies on the trade floor at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual NABShow in Las Vegas. These companies range in subjects from social media for broadcast news stations (Social News Desk) to a sports video capturing and sharing app (SportXast). Sprockit receives support from Comcast, Disney ABC Television Group, Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Google, Hearst Television, Tribune Broadcasting, Univision Communications and the AARP.

Recognizing the changing media environment, universities have been increasingly adding courses and programs pertaining to media entrepreneurship to their curriculum. Much like universities compete on the hardwood each spring, programs for the past few years have been able to compete in Student Startup Madness. The brainchild of Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, the top teams advance from regional competitions to the “Entrepreneurial Eight” finals, held at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas each year.

Despite our journals leading the way in publishing seminal research on media entrepreneurship for at least a decade now (e.g. Hoag & Seo, 2005; Hoag, 2008; Hang & Van Weezel, 2007; Haas, 2011), our field of Media Management and Economics has been, for the most part, largely missing from the current curricular push to expand media entrepreneurship efforts. Ferrier (2012) notes that these courses, called “digital media entrepreneurship,” “media entrepreneurship,” “entrepreneurial journalism,” or “new media ventures,” are designed to introduce students to entrepreneurship and the startup culture.

A 2013 report on the state of entrepreneurial journalism education (note: link downloads file) in six countries (Vázquez Schaich & Klein, 2013), concludes that there are ample opportunities to increase collaboration between entrepreneurial journalism efforts with those of our media management and economics field.

In fact, in the United States at least, “entrepreneurial journalism” has been leading the media entrepreneurship movement, often funded through journalism-oriented foundations (e.g. Knight Foundation at CUNY, Arizona State and others; Scripps Howard at Ohio University).

While journalism is certainly important, a narrower focus on entrepreneurial journalism rather than a more broader emphasis on media entrepreneurship could unnecessarily exclude student innovation in areas such as film and television entertainment, music, sports media, and technology (which you’ll recall is media per Cindy Royal), just to name a few.  More often than not journalism innovation in the past decade has occurred from outside traditional journalism industries. Meanwhile, many stalwarts in our field of media management and economics find themselves in business schools, not communication schools.

As colleges and universities expand their programmatic offerings, more is certainly better than less. I’m buoyed by these efforts and excited by what the future holds as more and more universities equip students with an entrepreneurial mindset to innovate in a variety of media industries.

Our division not only can, but perhaps should, play a bigger role in leading and shaping these changes. With media entrepreneurship part of the global theme of the next World Media Economics and Management Conference in New York City, the 2016 event makes for a perfect platform to showcase our division’s scholarship and pedagogy in these areas. But we don’t have to wait two years to continue to make advances in spreading media entrepreneurship.

We can continue to stoke the flames of media entrepreneurship to ensure a passion for innovation burns within the next generation of media creators.

Geoffrey Graybeal, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University, where he teaches courses on Media Entrepreneurship. He serves as bibliographer and community outreach officer for the Media Management and Economics division of AEJMC. 

“Startupery” is possible in “Silicon Prairie.”

March 28, 2014

Bob Metcalfe would like to see more student “startupers.”

The inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3COM and a professor of innovation at UT-Austin is on a mission to promote the term “startupery” as a better alternative to entrepreneurship. In a Friday talk here at Texas Tech University, titled “Startupery out of Research Universities,” Metcalfe argued that research universities are better outlets for research and innovation than traditional government labs.

After noting that the Internet was built by startups and not incumbent businesses, Metcalfe described seven components to his model for fostering technological entrepreneurial innovation (which at scale looks like Google, General Electric and IBM). Metcalfe calls the model the Doriot Ecology, which he named after late Gen. Georges Doriot, a Harvard Business professor who is known as the “father of venture capitalism.”

The seven components to the “Doriot model” include:
1)government funding agencies , which fund

2)research professors, who teach

3)students, who are the key vehicles to innovation for they carry new knowledge into the world and connect with or become

4)scaling entrepreneurs, people who know how to build companies (a principal asset of Silicon Valley)


6)strategic partners (established companies that help grow the business and reach of the startup) and

7)early adopters of the technology

While the major U.S. research labs were all established by monopoly businesses, with the Bell Lab held up as the pinnacle of American research and innovation, Metcalfe argues that we should expand the efforts at research universities and not try to recreate the Bell Lab experience.

Universities are better outlets for funding research innovation, according to Metcalfe, because universities are going to compete with each other (as they already do for funding from RFPs) and that they graduate students, who then serve as vehicles of innovation.

Metcalfe also noted the importance of developing technology to serve future customers and not to satsify present trends. He said that “time machines” allowed 3COM to beat its competitors.

“We had been to the future and our competitors had not,” he said. “We knew what to build. Our competitors did not.”

Metcalfe’s company was focused on developing Ethernet to connect personal computers in the early 1980s before personal computers were prevalent and mainstream because he saw future trends from working in the Xerox PARC lab.

Metcalfe also spoke of the travails from taking a product from idea to marketplace, pivoting along the way to meet consumer demands in order to avoid a “valley of death.”
“If you see a valley of death, you are not obligated to go charging into it,” he said. “If you see a valley of death, don’t (go).”

Jodey Arrington, vice chancellor for Research, Commercialization and Federal Relations for the Texas Tech University System said that his office (which sponsored Metcalfe’s talk) would like to create “Silicon Prairie” here in West Texas.

“Our ideas are every bit as good as Stanford and MIT … it’s just a matter of creating a culture (here).”

Of course, several research universities have begun to recognize the importance of “startupery” in the areas of media, journalism and mass communication by offering undergraduate and graduate courses on media entrepreneurship and innovation and developing media incubators, accelerators and hackathons.

Student “startupers” are becoming more commonplace, as evident by the Student Startup Madness competition held annually in conjunction with SXSW. The Student Startup Madness concept was developed by Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Here at Texas Tech, I’m fortunate to teach a course on Media Entrepreneurship, which is the capstone course among undergraduate Media Strategies majors, here in the College of Media and Communication. My college is committed to fostering “media startupery” and interdisciplinary collaboration and we’ve been buoyed by early student successes.

My university likes to say “from here, it’s possible.” Because he has the benefit of a “time machine,” Metcalfe must know that his vision of “startupery” will certainly become a reality.

Student “startupers” should and will emerge and continue to foster innovation, from Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie, from coast to coast and points in between.

An entrepreneurial state of mind

November 15, 2013

When I lived in Connecticut, I would often found myself in a “New York state of mind.” I frequently would hop on the Metro North and head into the self-proclaimed “Greatest City in the World.”

With apologies to Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, since moving to Lubbock, I’ve found myself in an “entrepreneurial state of mind.” Entrepreneurship an emerging area of focus at my college and university. Naturally, I try to instill an entrepreneurial ethos into the classes I teach.
Of course, an entrepreneurial mindset is about more than starting a business. It’s an attitude. A lifestyle. And a characteristic that will serve students of all ages well at any stage in life. In honor of next week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, I thought I would highlight some key traits that in my mind define an entrepreneur. They are:

1. Novel. In the words of Peter Drucker, “entrepreneurs innovate.” Innovation is about a novel idea or concept. They can be new to the world or a different way of using existing technologies. Entrepreneurs at their core are “idea men/women.”

2.Teammate. No entrepreneur can succeed alone (except maybe Jack Dorsey. Between Twitter and Square, that guy is an entrepreneurial beast. I mean that as a compliment.) Teamwork is essential. Entrepreneurs who create startups must find others with strengths to complement their owns. Entrepreneurs are the ultimate team players.

3. Driven. Social entrepreneur extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuk always likes to talk about the importance of “hustle.” The bottom line is that entrepreneurs must have a strong work ethic. They must be willing to put in long hours and sacrifice in order to make it. Entrepreneurs work hard.

4.Decisive. Entrepreneurs must be decisive as they’re faced with lots of choices during the entrepreneurial process, from funding decisions, team-building decisions, product development decisions, and so forth and so on.

5. Strategic. A good entrepreneur makes strategic decisions. They’re in it for the long haul. Strategy is needed to guide the startup mission, the culture and the company ethos.

6. Analytic. Entrepreneurs should be analytic. They should be making decisions off audience insights. They should know the market, know the competition, know the numbers, and know future trends and projections.

That’s my list. Agree? Disagree? What traits would you add to the list?