The senior project journey begins

Of all the scholarly articles I've read, nothing has paved a clearer path for my senior project than the concluding words of a speech from John Temple, former editor of the Rocky Mountain News:

Know what business you’re in. Know your customers. Know your competition. Know your goal. Have a strategy and be committed to pursuing it. Measure, measure, measure. Keep new ventures free from the rules of the old. Let the people running a new venture do what’s best for their business, regardless of the potential impact on the old. To compete in a new medium, you have to understand it. Invest in R&D.

So now I embark on the 10-week journey of discovering the perfect ingredients for an online newsorg business model. It's not going to be easy, but at least I'm entering it with the right mindset -- that's 90 percent of the problem at newspapers.

This quote from Temple, (which I first saw in a tweet from Jay Rosen) is especially powerful:

“We had all the advantages and let it slip away. We couldn’t give up the idea that we were newspaper companies.”

Over the next few weeks, I plan to specifically research the following elements referenced by Temple. Here are my preliminary thoughts:

Know what business you’re in: My hypothetical newsorg would be in the business of sharing and spreading relevant, timely information with my community as quickly and accurately as possible.

Know your customers: My customer base would primarily be the community in which my newsorg is situated. I would have to find specific demographics for the exact age, gender and race of those users and use surveys to determine where and how they get their news.

Know your competition: My competition would primarily be the main newspaper for my city. If there are any local blogs, I would need to identify them. In addition to news competitors, a main competitor online is time.  I'm competing against sites like Facebook where users spend 21 minutes/visit.

Know your goal: I am going to be honest. I don't have a goal yet. I know part of it is is to create a site with news that readers are invested in. The quality of my content will likely play a huge role in the development of my business model. There is also a goal of generating enough revenue to keep my newsorg running and thriving (I'm not necessarily looking to generate hundreds of thousands a year).

Keep new ventures free from the rules of the old: Temple acknowledges that the Rocky Mountain News failed because they saw themselves as strictly "newspapers" rather than seekers and spreaders of news -- disconnected from the medium.

To compete in a new medium, you have to understand it: This will mean understanding and measuring analytics, observing user trends and noticing my own habits on the web. This will mean knowing how the web is changing and how users are changing. This will mean knowing who advertisers want to reach and how to meet those goals.

Invest in R&D: Research and Development is an on-going project. It's not something you do before launching or when anticipating a change. It's something that should be continuous and never-ending. And that research should be put to use to use as new revelations come about. I intend to hire a person for my hypothetical newsorg who can stay on top of R&D.