JOUR 459E: New Media Entrepreneurship; Spring 2010

This syllabus is subject to change as the semester progress, check Blackboard for weekly updates

Logistics: 3 credits; Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.; Room Knight Hall 2103.

Co-Instructors: Asher Epstein, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business; and Leslie Walker, Knight Visiting Professor in Digital Innovation at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Office hours: For Professor Walker: Mondays, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. For Professor Epstein, by appointment.

Contact information: For Prof. Walker, For Prof. Epstein: e-mail See Blackboard site for contact phones.

Course description and goals: This course introduces students to the basics of entrepreneurship and evolving business models for media. It blends instruction in general entrepreneurship concepts with how the Internet and digital technologies are transforming media economics, using recent news and communication startups as case studies for applying entrepreneurial principles. Students will identify, develop and pitch ideas for media businesses; research and write a business case study; and perform skill-building exercises in business analysis and digital technologies. Local entrepreneurs will meet with the class to discuss strategies and trends.

Required Readings: Weekly assigned readings will be posted to our Blackboard/Elms Web site; most are listed below. They are available online or as PDFs in Blackboard. Read them the week BEFORE they are listed on the class schedule; be prepared to discuss in class.

Course work: Students will be paired in teams of two (or three) to conceive and pitch ideas for media businesses, which they will refine and flesh out during the semester.  Each student also will research and write a case study of a business that launched in the last decade. In addition, students will be given two business analysis exercises as homework, and a few ungraded exercises during class. Class participation will be graded. Details of assignments, deadlines and grade weightings appear in the chart below. Teams will collaborate using our private class wiki at Google Sites. Lecture notes will be available in the private wiki and Blackboard.


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Class schedule:

Jan. 27: Introduction and Overview; Changing Media Economics.Introduction of instructors and students. Review of syllabus and course work. Overview of entrepreneurship. Explanation of course requirement to develop a business idea/plan. Second half of class: Overview of traditional media economics and how the media business is changing; comparative economics of mass media and digital media.

Feb. 3: Entrepreneurial Mindset . Introduction to some of the primary characteristics possessed by entrepreneurs. We will seek to identify those characteristics and requisite skills in each participant in the program and discuss methods for further developing those skills. Points of discussion will include: 1. Developing entrepreneurial discipline. 2. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. 3. Establishing credibility, confidence and leadership.

  • Teams for business plans: Students form teams and discuss how they will approach their business proposals. Class time will be allocated for students to meet with potential teammates to explore ideas, plus discuss approaches with the professors.
  • Read before class: The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen; HarperBusiness 2000 edition. Introduction and Chapt. 1; 46 pages; and Chapter 7; pages 143-59.

Feb. 10: Media disruption:: Disruptive technologies and trends that transformed media in the past and are having major impact on media today.

  • Readings : 1. Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, 2009 essay by Clay Shirky. 2. The Curse of the Mogul; What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies, by Jonathan A. Knee, Bruce C. Greenwald and Ava Seave; 2009, Portfolio/Penguin Group. Chapts. 1 and 2; pages 13-55.

Feb. 17:  Opportunity Recognition: The World is Flat…..for the Entrepreneur. Introduction to entrepreneurial thinking with an emphasis on scanning the local and global landscape to recognize trends in the marketplace and assess potential opportunities for entrepreneurial endeavors.

  • Reading: The Curse of the Mogul; What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading  Media Companies. Chapts. 3, 4, and 5; pages 57-102.

Homework Exercise # 1 (Recognizing Trends): Due Feb. 24

  • What other macro and micro trends do you see?
  • What are the indicators of these trends?
  • What might be some possible opportunities for business creation?

Feb. 24:  Understanding Your Markets . (Homework #1 is due.) Understanding specific market dynamics within a selected niche. Emphasis will be placed on tracing the flow of money through a transaction.

  • First Pitches: In the second half of class, student teams will do two-minute pitches for new businesses. What opportunity have you identified and what problem will your business solve?
  • Readings: 1) Introduction to Planet Google, by Randall Stross, 2008, Simon and Schuster, 19 pages; and 2) What Would Google Do?, by Jeff Jarvis, CollinsBusiness, 2009; Chapter titled “The New Economy,” pages 54-82.

Homework Exercise # 2: Missed Opportunities: Due March 10

  • What businesses have been caught behind the technology transformations of the past 10 years?
  • What businesses are missing the boat today?

March 3: Internet advertising— How banner ads, interactive ads, rich media ads, audience targeting and profiling are transforming advertising. Hands-on exercise in keyword advertising, team competition in creating campaigns for Google AdWords.

  • Readings: What Would Google Do?, Jarvis, Two chapters titled “Media,” and “Advertising,” pages 123-152.

March 10: Innovation in advertising and media revenue models. Guest speaker: Mark Walsh, CEO and founder, GeniusRocket. Followed by: Understanding business models. The basics of different business models and an overview of how to evaluate various investment opportunities and assess the business fundamentals. (Homework #2 is due.)

  • Reading: New Business Models for News,” report from CUNY project, August 2009, pages 1-28.

March 24:  Team pitches & emerging business models for media.Discussion in second half of class will focus on emerging business/revenue models for digital media. In first half, student teams make their second business pitches.

  • Second pitches: Explain the financial assumptions behind your business proposal. How large is the market? What are the revenue/cost assumptions? Up to six minutes.
  • Readings: New Business Models for News,” report from CUNY project, August 2009, pages 1-28. Optional: “The State of the News Media 2009,” annual report on American journalism by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, executive summary, pages 1-34.

March 31:  1. Guest speakers: Susan and Larry Patrick, owners of media brokerage firm Patrick Communications. 2. Case studies of digital media start-ups: Politico, GlobalPost, Huffington Post and others. (Walker) 3. Identifying and selecting technology platforms and tools.4. Team huddles: In the last part of class, teams work on their projects, incorporating feedback from the previous week.

  • Reading: Risky Business: John Harris, Jim VandeHei, and Politico,Parts A and B, Columbia University: Knight Case Studies Initiative, 26 pages.

April 7: Paid Content: Trends and issues in digital media that charge for content.. Issues and challenges in charging for digital content. Guest speaker: Mark Potts, CEO of GrowthSpur, on starting Internet media businesses. Also: Audience analysis and metrics.

  • Reading: Free, the Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson, Hyperion, 2009. Chapts 1, 5, 6 and 8. Pages 1-14; 75-100; 119-134

April 14: Digital marketing and social networking. Guest speaker: Jeremy Epstein, founder, Never Stop Marketing. How marketing is evolving through social networking, microblogging, Tweeting, RSS, customized messaging and related technologies. Second half of class: Topic TBA.

  • Case study research papers due April 14; 4 to 8 pages.
  • Reading: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, by Clay Shirky, 2008, The Penguin Press, pages 1-49.

April 21: 5-6:30 pm. Panel Discussion: “Reinventing Local News”: Guest speakers will be Jim Brady, president of digital strategy for Allbritton Communications (owner of Politico); Fern Shen, publisher/founder of the group news blog, Baltimore Brew; and Mark Potts, founder of GrowthSpur. Class will move into the Knight Hall auditorium to  host this discussion as a symposium on local news startups, open to UMD faculty and students.

  • Reading: How News Happens: A story of the news ecosystem of one American City (Baltimore), Jan. 2010 report from the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, pages 1-45.

April 28: Financing for startups

  • 4 p.m.: Introduction to Angel Investors, Venture Capital and the U.S. Venture Market. This session focuses on describing the funding sources typically available at each stage, funding criteria, and the U.S. venture capital marketplace
  • Reading: TBA.

May 5: Final team pitches & course summation

  • Third pitch: Teams present oral and written summaries of their business plans. Oral presentations of up to eight minutes.