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!