Enterprise: A change of direction

  • Realisation:

Last week, I had a session that has been really helpful to me in terms of professional objectives. Something has been triggered in my head that made me think:

Oh my god, why didn’t I think of this before?”

For my entrepreneurial project, I have decided to specialise in music and cinema. The idea that establishing oneself in a niche market that one is specialised in is what will make you stand out, provided you have got the knowledge, the wit, and the style.

What led me there was mostly my background: music reviewer, movie critic and feature writer on arty things. Essentially, these are the experiences that made me enter if not break through journalism. However, I have come to realise that I may lack some of the resources to appear credible and stand out.

If last week lecture taught me something, it is surely that you need to believe in yourself and never back down when your idea gets sniggered at or mocked. If you truly think you can make it then try till you achieve what you had planned.

Moreover, my plan for the future does not necessarily coincide with music reviewing or movie criticising. That would be good though. The market is just too fickle and it’s hard to make a living just writing music or film reviews, especially when the industry has never been so appealing and does not necessarily pay.

I have been reflecting on things that I am passionate about and know in depth. Do not get me wrong though, I am passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to music and films, I just have doubts about how much do I know. I just think there are loads of people out there who know more than I do and who can write about it in a better way.

  • What made me go into journalism?

The question here is clear: why do I write?

To that question I have provided answers in my past reflection: I want to write a book, I have always written stories ever since I learned how to.

How blind was I not to see that these were not direct answers that tackled the problem to its root? A bit like the tree that hides the forest, these were just things I kept telling myself because they seemed decent, socially acceptable and expected answers.

Writing, for me is a process that will help me become a better, more thoughtful, and disciplined person (thanks James for making me realise). I do not write for others in the first place, though it helps to have readers – especially when your job revolves around writing. First and foremost, I do it for myself. Writing is an outlet where I can express my feelings and thoughts. Roughly, it is some kind of confessional to me.

I went into journalism not because I wanted to communicate things to others – although I am more and more chuffed by the idea– but because I wanted to express myself. In a world where communicating has never been that easy, I wanted to make myself heard although I am not very good at talking. I think I am much better at penning things down like I am doing right now.

  • Everyone has got something to say:

The other day, I went to the conservatoire and met an old woman whom I started talking to. We discussed for a bit and she started going on about herself. Never have I had a discussion that deep with someone I did not seem to share much with apart from the fact we where both foreigners in this country – nothing of that typical bullshit weather small talk I’ve grown accustomed to really.

From Birmingham we went on to Peaky Blinders. From Peaky Blinders we went on to Northern Ireland. From Northern Ireland we went on to the Second World War. From the Second World War on to her education, family and so on. Never did she make her motivation and thoughts clear.

Suddenly the thought occurred to me: what was she doing in Birmingham? Why did she move from Ireland to live here even though she doesn’t “particularly like it”? Following a free association thought process, not far from what a paranoid personality could achieve and that Freud would claim copyright on I arrived to the conclusion that in another setting, I could have completely ignored her and went on my way missing out on a fruitful conversation.

A bit like those people who talk about their childhood remembrances during the war, that woman would probably have something to say about IRA. For all I know maybe she tried to escape from it and found that Birmingham was the best place to settle in?

My point here is that whoever you are, behind you there is always a story. As dull as it appears to you, it might interest more people than you could think of. Your story just needs to go out there and take off.

  • What can you say?

I think I’ve had a lot of things happening to me that I could write about and could make people relate to: maybe behind diagnosed with cancer at a young age is one of them. Maybe obsessing over something that completely changed me is one of them.

All of that ranting may be gibberish to you but it is important for me to write it down because I do feel like writing is going to help me personally to express the way I feel – since I found it quite difficult and awkward to do it naturally.

How does this relate to my entrepreneurial project? I should probably change my area of specialisation. Essentially that would mean leaving the freelance music thing aside (though I would keep writing for the webzines I write for) and get into feature writing the way Vice does it. If it doesn’t work out in the end – and I genuinely feel the only thing that could stop me would not be a lack of interest from editors but the fact that I don’t master English quite as well as I wished I did – I can still try to contact other media outlets that will be interested to publish what is it I have to say. Rue89 for example is specialised in this sort of writing.

I’ve been working on a piece that I want to pitch to one of these publications before the New Year. That idea has been on the back of my mind for a long time now and I feel like making use of it for my enterprise project is much more consistent.

Passion I believe will have a positive outcome, however difficult the road is.

 

Enterprise idea: Start-up as a freelance writer/journalist

  • Robin Cannone – Online freelance writer and journalist:

RobinLogo
My logo

I have already been thinking for some time now about my entrepreneurial project. In a previous blog post I came to the conclusion that starting-up as a freelance was the wisest choice:

Partly because of the realism of the idea, partly because of the skills I have acquired throughout my journalistic experience.

This involves writing about music, cinema and news for magazines. You can find samples of my work by clicking on the magazine name:

In parallel, I have also developed various skills in journalism (use of softwares and tools such as Avid or WordPress). However, my research has led me to realise that I have much more chances to succeed if aiming at a niche market in which I have experience and knowledge (music in particular). Then, once I have made a name for myself in this field, I could potentially expand and write about pretty much everything.

Moreover, using all that distinguish me from others competitors, I can write in English as well as French which is a huge asset for magazines that publish in those two languages.

  • Potential competitors:
Mapping out freelancers around Birmingham (source www.journalism.co.uk)
Mapping out freelancers around Birmingham (source http://www.journalism.co.uk)

During my research, I came across a map on www.journalism.co.uk listing all the potential competitors around Birmingham with the same expertise as mine. I identified two freelancers within a distance of ten miles who were also specialised in music, films and arts in general. Their communication strategy, in particular with clients, is based on social media, notably Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress.

Of course, I do know there are more than two potential competitors in the Midlands but any self-proclaimed ‘freelance writer‘ could be my potential competitor. And god knows how many there are out there.

To appear professional, it helps to have a blog and portfolio with samples of work that have been published. It is even better if you have been paid for your work. Here are my samples.

Using various tools, such as Followerwonk, LinkedIn and WordPress (which happen to be the tools freelancers use to promote themselves) I have searched for competitors around Birmingham: most of them are volunteers. My conclusion is that twitter is not the right platform to research for professional freelancers.

Freelance writers on Followerwonk
Freelance writers on Followerwonk
  • Objectives

I had drawn steps to follow at the end of a previous blog post. Instead of focusing on competitors, I forced myself to contacte the professionals I had identified as “role models” who do what I want to do. I tried contacting and researching as many as I could, with more or less success (two of them are now following me on Twitter):

  • James Nolan:

I interviewed James Nolan, who writes for Vice (one of my target magazines). Asking him various question, he replied giving me advice on how to get into freelance writing.

  •  Clive Martin:

He suggests to write passionately and excitingly:

clive martin

  • Etienne Menu:

In this interview, Etienne points out a tendency in French media to only talk about music in terms of meaningfulness. Suggesting to aspiring music journalists the need to write about music in a new way, less socially inclined and more artistically orientated.

It appears that what the industry is looking for is fresh air and original piece that approach things in another angle. And all the experts agree on the importance of modesty and the importance of voluntary work and pitching to a regional level before aiming for the national.

  • How to pitch:

Amongst all the successful freelancers I contacted, none was willing to discuss money and revenue because it did not look professional. I figured I would research the market and learn how to pitch so that I could send stories to editors and discuss money matters with them without sounding like an annoyance.

JournogradsPress GazetteCompany LinkedIn

All these websites come up with their own idea. Although things differ slightly on certain points, a general idea can be drawn on how to pitch stories to magazines.

  • Guidelines from research:
  1. Read magazine
  2. Look for writing guidelines
  3. Get the attention of Editor (email or phone call)
  4. Pitch a story
  5. Ask for commitment (joins Rob Fitzpatrick’s mom test)
  6. Send your work

Nevertheless, Instead of pitching the story, James advised me to send entire articles to magazines. He said:

I think when you don’t have a lot of credits it’s important to take a chance and do the work without waiting for permission to convince an editor you have what it takes.”

  • Evaluation of the enterprise model:

Business Model Canvas - Freelancing Robin

Following the Business Canvas Model, Simon Bolton‘s “How to innovate” programme, and my research of the industry, I have identified the core weaknesses (Broken Windows) of my idea and organised myself to remedy to these:

Issues and steps

  • Concerning the strength, my knowledge of the industry, my cultural experience of France and the UK and my contact networks (in both countries) are definitely going to be something pushing me forward.
  • For my next step, one of my contacts is going to introduce me to Fused Magazine (local) to remedy to the issues highlighted above. In parallel, I am going to start investing more into essential ressources.

If you are interested by my services, you can contact me using the form below:

Follow me on Twitter @robincannone

Portfolio

LinkedIn

 

Haruki Murakami – Blunt Feelings, Loneliness And Curiosity

 Of all the novels Haruki Murakami has ever published, I have read four. The first one was The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, followed by 1Q84, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage and finally Norwegian Wood.

What attracted me in Murakami’s novels were the uncanny, the dreamy touch and the simplicity with which he expresses complex feelings. It felt a bit like delving into a book that recreated the atmosphere that attracted me to David Lynch’s cinema, and that was all it took to hook me up.

Norwegian Wood: 

It is the book that pushed Murakami onto the international scene, making the numbers of his readership drastically surge from thousands to millions. Fifth novel of the Japanese writer, published in 1987, it is also the most personal. Although most situations are purely fictional, a lot of elements are borrowed from the author’s past.

The settings, to start with, make it seem much more personal than any other books he’d written before: Tokyo, in the end of the politically troubled 1960’s where main character, twenty-year-old Toru Watanabe, seems to share a lot with twenty-year-old Murakami. First of all, Toru is a simple adolescent, who sees life in a rather rational way. It appears quite natural for  Toru to look at the world and try to make sense of it, since his best friend Kizuki committed suicide when he was 17. He then develops complex feelings towards Naoko, Kizuki’s girlfriend. Friendship, attachment and eventually, what he thinks is love. Naoko, however, is torn apart between her feelings for him and the guilt she feels towards her dead boyfriend. Finally she decides to go to a mental institution where she will be cut off from the world. Meanwhile, Toru meets Midori, an eccentric girl in his class, who quickly becomes fond of him. The rest of the novel follows Toru, in a quest to discover who he really his and what he really wants.

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage:

Latest novel to date in Murakami’s broad collection of 13 long stories, this book tells the adventures of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man who remembers his troubled past.

Oddly, Tsukuru got expelled from his group of friends during his second year at University. Of all these friends, he was the only one with a name that did not include a colour, and that is part of the reason why he felt that he never belonged to that group. He then meets Sara, an attractive women, by two years his senior, whom he becomes engrossed with. She feels that something in his past is holding him, not allowing him to fully share his feelings. She encourages him to contact his estranged old friends that have all gone their separate ways, to discuss the circumstances that led them to exclude him from their community. Tsukuru quickly realises that what he had thought happened is not quite what he recalls and the truth can put on different masks.

Murakamian themes:

Whereas the plots are somewhat different in the two novels, similarities can be drawn on themes and occurrences: for once, they both explore the past, where strong feelings and issues remain unresolved. Mental illness is an underpinning theme that is constantly present as is death.

What shocks the most is the absence of parental figures. Although they are often mentioned, they just appear as brief memories from the past, as if constantly thrown into the background or even completely ignored.

No wonder why both novels explore the past of the protagonist. Teenage years are those in which we defined ourselves. It is not uncommon for Murakami’s characters to find themselves in a dorm in the middle of Tokyo leading a sort of dull existence where Sundays is not hungover day but laundry day. A gloomy remembrance of “the good old days” that do not seem to have been so good for him, spent between reading Fitzgerald and his ironing board. He admits:

My own youth was far less dramatic, far more boring than that (Norwegian Wood). If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than 15 pages long.”

Memories, true or fantasised are central to Murakami’s universe. It can be seen at moments when dreams and reality mix, resulting in an uncanny and confusing experience for the protagonist. Parts with vividly described sex dreams, a recurring theme, often illustrate the main character’s confusion to distinguish what is real from what isn’t. But this is not relevant to Murakami. After all, what does it change to modify reality ? As Proust did it with his masterpiece  ‘À la recherche du temps perdu‘, the giant of Japanese literature is only writing to illustrate the importance of recollection. Once the past has eluded us, what is left but memories? Why not use these to make sense of the present?

 More about Haruki Murakami

Two Successful Blogs/Websites:

 

Vice or the art of being bold:

Some of the things they publish are often over the top and very opinionated but that is what they are known for. Pretentious, Hipster or even crap are terms that these articles are often referred to by the magazine’s numerous detractors.

In addition to those controversial pieces, Vice is also specialised in investigative journalism, flying freelancers off, camera on shoulder to Raqqa, North Korea or Ukraine.

Vice often offers great quality content. Just have a look at Clive Martin’s articles to seize the essence of what is known as the magazine’s infamous style: in depth analyses of our (sub)culture’s issues, punctuated by witty sarcasms and a cheeky pen. Vice may well be reshaping our vision of modern journalism.

Vice

The reason why the ‘Definitive guide to enlightenment’ features on this blog post is its entrepreneurial evolution. Let me explain…

Founded in 1994 by Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, and Gavin McInnes in Montreal, ‘Voice of Montreal’ was first launched as a Punk Magazine. The outlet quickly changed its name to become what it is known as today. Flash forward two decades later and the magazine is worth $2.5Billion. Even media figure Rupert Murdoch bought 5 per cent of the company’s shares. Not bad for a free content magazine…

Today Vice has offices in more than a dozen countries and birth numerous alternative channels on its network: Noisey, Thump, Vice News – the latter has just been launched in Paris yesterday.

What is amazing with the magazine is the way in which it has succeeded in evolving, going from Punk Magazine to the reference of investigative journalism. Shane Smith even talks about how he dreams to “get ten times bigger than CNN”.

In a way, he has succeeded in doing so, at least on Youtube where Vice can boasts of more than 5 million follower, whereas the news outlet has only 600 thousands. Not bad at all indeed…

Roger Ebert, a simple man with a simple blog:

Roger Ebert

It was last year in April when the giant figure of American Cinema left us, succumbing to a long battle with cancer, aged 70.

Impossible not to relate to this man, first because of what he has been through and because of his love for movies. Film critic, screenwriter, journalist, film historian and novelist, Roger Ebert’s pen was the sharpest that Hollywood has ever seen.

I discovered Roger’s blog right after watching ‘La Dolce Vita’ for a second time. The movie, featuring legendary figures Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee, is one of the first that he has ever critiqued. Coincidence or fate?

Even though sometimes my opinion differed from his on certain movies, I could always acknowledge the depth of Roger’s analysis, awed by what he had seen that had eluded me.

In my opinion, this website is the best in terms of content quality and critics. An entrepreneurial as well as personal blog that every film lover looks up to.

 

Also have a look at Brain Pickings and Freelancer Union if you love writing.

Identify Objectives For Entrepreneurial Project:

 

Over the past two weeks have been thinking about an entrepreneurial project that could relate to my course .

‘Freelancing and Journalism Enterprise’ does not really give you the broadest of choices in what kind of business you could set up. Quickly, I came to the conclusion that the most realistic and down to earth idea was to start-up as a freelancer. Therefore, I have asked myself what does freelance mean. Apart from the obvious adjectives and expressions that automatically come to mind – precarious, tough, unsustainable, stressful, on the rope – there is also the underlying idea of independence, success and broad audience residing in the term.

  • Independence as a way of working
  • Success as the condition of a prosperous flourishing “business”
  • Audience as the people who will listen to what you have to say and possibly pay for it

 In order to give life to my project I have asked myself the following questions:

  • Who am I? What do I do?

I am a psychology graduate, a blogger with an interest in journalism, music, cinema and culture. I write online, read a lot of publications. Two of the things I show a great interest towards are :

  • The “underground”/subcultures
  • Write stories

From here, I realised the two could be mixed to cover “underground stories”. In other words, stories nobody would have thought could interest people. That is the kind of thing Vice magazine does.

  • What are my skills?

My level of expertise would probably be somewhere in between online blogging, music and cinema reviewing. Fair enough, a lot of people could boast about having the same skills and call themselves “online bloggers”, “music reviewers” or “movie critics”. As far as I am concerned, writing for webzines, watching movies, listening to music and reading about it is a good way to broaden your knowledge and hone your skills.

With university, we as students are encouraged to go out there and find stories, which is what journalists essentially do. Moreover, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I am also working on developing chameleon skills; that is to say in broadcasting, writing (through NEN and ATD) and radio (with the application audioBooM).

  • Who is my audience?

I have actually identified three different audiences that I can split in according to their interest: (1) cinema (2) music and (3) journalism. As a matter of fact, is the freelancer not meant to be able to write about pretty much everything, adapting his style to a given audience? Concerning what I currently do, my audience is interested in music, cinema and news equally and is looking to broaden its knowledge in those industries. That is why I need to be a step ahead of them and give them the information they are looking for.

  • Identify Role Models?

Vice MAGAZINE writer: Clive Martin and James Nolan.

Etienne Menu who recently launched his magazine Audimat, host Musique Info Service on dailymotion.com, is part of the editorial team of GQ France and did some freelance reportages for Vice.

Roger Ebert, a famous movie critic who sadly past away last year.

  • Identify objectives

Steps:

  1. Research into how to set up as a freelancer.
  2. Build a presence online with platforms such as Twitter, WordPress, Pressfolio.
  3. Interview professionals that have succeeded in what I am trying to achieve.
  4. Come up with a plan of action on starting up (using the Business Model Canvas).

Entrepreneurship And Journalism – What To Ask Yourself?

  • The independents

 The independents (Charles Leadbeater & Kate Oakley) 1999, highlight the results of an investigative study about young independent entrepreneurs.

What is shown is the emergence of a new breed of independents setting-up their own businesses, producing a rise in self-employment, a boost of the creative industry and generating an economic growth. These entrepreneurs work closely with networks, participating in a re-dynamisation of cities that had fallen into economic or cultural decline thereof becoming less and less attractive.

Up till recently, people in the UK have been moving to London, the heart of England’s creativity. However, at the end of the past century, these once shunned cities have suddenly become attractive: Cardiff is reshaping itself around the media industry whereas Glasgow is basing its creative potential in architecture and design.

This new breed of independents is a generation that has gotten older. What at the time of this article was written appeared as a new creative phenomenon, is now mainstream and has happened in Birmingham: just have a look at the Custard Factory or Digbeth’s quirky shops and exhibitions.

  •  Entrepreneur, what does it mean?

 As a response to Leadbeater and Oakley, fifteen years later, I want to offer a reflection on what it means to be an entrepreneur today.

As adjectives come to mind one after the other – successful, innovative, clever, avant-gardist – pictures of Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and other successful business starters come to mind.

Are we born entrepreneur or do we become one? Is entrepreneurship a mindset or about developing a collection of skills? I guess the most obvious answer is found in between.

In order to creating a business you need to know what you want to achieve and which way you will use to encounter success in your endeavour. In this light, one needs to be determined, undoubting and conscious of the risks taken however hard the path taken appears.

Nevertheless, all this self-belief is not sufficient. A basic knowledge of communication, finance or sales is necessary.  Listening to the advise of all business runners, there will eventually be a point in their career when they will have to deal with policy, PR and law.

More tips about starting your own business here

  •  My project

As a postgraduate journalism student, one needs to be aware of the process of building an enterprise. Especially in response to Leadbeater and Oakley’s paper that has highlighted the phenomenon of self-employment.

Moreover, the future is looking more and more towards freelancing (and not only in journalism). As a freelancer, you need to ask yourself:

  • What skills have you got?
  • Who is your audience (if you have one yet)?
  • What is your audience looking for in your work?
  • Who would pay for your work?

These are the questions that have been going through my mind lately and that I will answer in a few weeks when putting up the first stones of my ‘enterprise’ module project.

A Reflection On What It Means To Be A Journalist Today: The Freelancer Chameleon

If someone wanted to be a journalist before the Internet era, the path to follow was simple: get a degree media-related, gain experience through internships and make contacts. Today, there is a multiplicity of pathways one can take before entering the field, up to the point that it is often recommended to specialised in another field before making the first steps into journalism.

Since most media outlets made massive investments in the Internet at the end of the 90’s, seeing it as a ripe fruit almost-ready to be picked up, it is easy to get an idea of what journalism is turning into. The tendency is confirmed by graphics that all seem to convey a single idea: Less and less people are employed in the newspaper publishing business. The same phenomenon seems to show for magazines and other types of publications.

Does this mean there is a crisis in the world of journalism? Not necessarily. There is something important happening that cannot be simply vulgarised as a crisis. Audiences are migrating online because information is easier to find on the World Wide Web. Therefore, outlets need to adapt in order to survive the change. When TV broadcast was first launched, newspapers feared it would have an impact on their selling even though it didn’t seem to affect it: people kept buying newspapers. People like reading newspapers and they will always enjoy it, but this is not the point here. Internet appears as a new way to deliver information on different platforms: video, writing, radio broadcast… the list goes on. This is the reason why nowadays journalists ought to be like chameleons, able to master all sorts of skills: broadcasting, radio and writing. Moreover, technical skills and a broad knowledge of the Internet are a big help if you want to get in the field.

If Internet is having an impact on journalism and journalists, it has also offered the possibility to those who did not have a say to use social platforms to make themselves heard. Indeed, with the ever-increasing means at our disposal, it has become ridiculously easy to make oneself a place online. With just a few clicks, anybody can create a blog. Anyone could potentially be a journalist. After all, what makes the journalist: degree or skills? And that’s not the end to it; people are starting to master journalistic skills that they need to develop ‘in order to survive in a networked information age’ where they have become news consumers (Mark Deuze, 2008). If the difference between journalist and blogger is just semantic, they sometimes appear to share the same skills.

Today, media outlets no longer seek to employ people, and anyone could have his own version of a story appear on a national newspaper website. Freelancers are sought because they cost less than employees. It is financially more advantaging to rely on a few freelancers paid according to their work than on an employee paid at the same rate every month. Hence, one cannot stress enough the need for journalists to be able to work independently, develop a variety of skills and be autonomous. However, how can one stand out in the middle of a sub-field where more and more people tend to engage (and not only in journalism)? That is a question to which I unfortunately haven’t got an answer yet. This blog will officiate as a personal reflection on how to be creative, entrepreneurial and intelligent in order to strive in journalism, motivated by my own personal reflections. Welcome.