Archive | May 2010

JEECamp 2010

Today was the third and final JEECamp, held at The Bond in Digbeth (click on the link for full coverage).

My job during the day was to live blog various discussions taking place.  First off was a keynote speech by Simon Waldman, Director of Digital Publishing at the Guardian Media Group.  He talked about the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in the media industry – both for small start ups and larger, more established corporations.  The larger institutions are so stuck in their ways however that innovation has been difficult, and simply having an online presence is not enough.  Being a student on the MA Media and Creative Enterprise at BCU, I knew all of this already but Simon did illustrate some good examples, such as IBM innovating in the early 80’s to turn around a huge loss.

Questions from the audience revolved mostly about paywalls for online news, which is a highly popular and much debated issue but Simon suggested that it is useless to fixate on one thing and instead focus our energies on looking at innovative ways to generate revenue, and I agree.

Next everyone broke off into different groups to discuss the latest burning issues around journalism and entrepreneurship and I volunteered to live blog for the most relevant topic to me – Business models and funding.  The other three groups covered law, ethics and regulation, community management and news gathering.

There was a lot of discussion in my group about the need for journalists to multi-skill yet focus on a niche, and there were two prime examples present in John Thompson of Journalism.co.uk and Phillip John of Lichfield Blog who have both managed to turn their hobbies into a success because of the niches they focused on.  

In the end though, the same problems still came up – a reliance on advertising and increased competition making revenue generation for online platforms extremely difficult.  Everyone came to the conclusion that even though no solutions or answers were found during the discussion, having such conversations helps and everyone was confident that a breakthrough will be reached one day!

This was typical of the atmosphere throughout the event – everyone was relaxed.  I wondered why this was – because we are out of the recession that we were in the middle of this time last year?  Because the entrepreneurial spirit promoted throughout the day gave us hope? Who knows, but it was nice.

Then there were two fringe discussions, one about the MA Courses in the BCU School of Media (my course being one of them) and a talk by Nigel Barlow.  Nigel started his local blog ‘Inside the M60‘ last year and he described his difficulty with generating enough revenue.  I admit I was a little distracted during his talk because I took a picture of Nigel and thought I uploaded it to Twitter…but infact I uploaded a picture of my house mates instead.  I was embarrassed and unfortunately it is still there on the live coverage!  I knew I should have brought my laptop and not used my phone.

Finally there was a closing presentation by Stewart Kirkpatrick, founder of the Caledonian Mercury.  It was a very funny and inspiring presentation, and he ended with a great point: that in the future journalists will need to come together to work on projects, which will cut out the big publishers.  This is again something I have heard and read about before during my course, and I am glad people are beginning to acknowledge that the media industries are inevitably moving towards portfolios and projects rather than the office and ‘9-5’.

Everyone left the event feeling quite optimistic, and it’s a great shame this will be the final JEECamp. Paul Bradshaw has done a great job over the past few years to bring the best journalistic minds together (and give us students a chance to mingle with them).

Thanks to Dan Davies for the photos!

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Kanya King, CEO and founder of the MOBO Organisation

Last night I went to a seminar at Birmingham University by Kanya King, CEO and founder of the MOBO Organisation.  

Kanya described to us her arduous journey from a council flat in London to hosting one of the biggest, most star-studded and most relevant music award ceremonies in Europe.  She told us about how she wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age when she was selling whistles at Notting Hill Carnival, to property development and finally when her sheer determination to make the first MOBO awards work forced her to remortgage her own house.
That huge gamble in 1996 paid off as the first MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards were held, and featured high-profile guests including Tony Blair and Lionel Richie.  The MOBO Organisation snowballed from there and over the years has featured performances from the likes of Destiny’s Child, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige, Jay-Z, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick.  Kanya built MOBO into an extremely strong brand and now it has branched out into magazines and community initiatives.  

Whilst audience questions were mainly focused on Kanya as an entrepreneur, I was particularly interested in her leadership style.  She commands a great deal of respect from her employees due to her sheer determination, work ethic and passion.  What I found most poignant was when she repeated a quote I have used in my own leadership assignment: “work on the business, not in the business”.  Kanya has especially needed to do this because she has a child, and the astonishing growth of her company forced her to hand over some responsibility, which she didn’t find easy.
“Getting the right team is difficult” she said.  “But I recruit people not so much based on their experience, but more based on their attitude, energy and enthusiasm.  Many interns we have here have ended up being employed because we know what they’re like.  They’re not coming here hoping to bump into Beyonce in the office, they’re here because they want to do a job.”
Kanya is also a great motivator; she is passionate and enthusiastic and balances that with the authority she has earned.  She asked everyone in the room to do some impromptu speed networking and everyone did it without hesitation. This is an example of her excellent motivation skills.

Although Kanya regularly rubs shoulders with the biggest stars in the world, she is still down to earth and has not lost her connection with ‘ordinary people’.  This is one of the reasons why she is so respected and why she has been able to successfully lead her employees towards making the MOBO Awards one of the biggest and best award ceremonies in Europe, and the company still continues to grow.
I’m going to finish with a great compilation video of previous MOBO Awards:

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