How To Make Millions in Journalism

Posted on November 4th, by Michael Rosenblum in Journalism. 43 comments


Wake up!!!


So yesterday I had my meeting with Nick Lemann, the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

I pitched him my concept. Here it is:

1.  I want to run a course at the Journalism School.  We can call it “Entrepreneurial Journalism”. We should call it How To Make Millions in Journalism.  (Anyone not signing up for this one?). But we’ll call it the former.

2. The course will teach students how to look at the emerging world of journalism as both journalists and entrepreneurs.  It will teach them where the markets are, how to come up with a coherent journalism related business plan. How to write a business plan. How to raise money, issue shares, maintain equity control, and so on.  How to price and test market your concept. And so on…

3. In order to pass the course, the students will then have to come up with an idea of a journalism based business, write the plan and pitch it to a review board. (Ever see Dragon’s Den on BBC America?)

4. Now, here is the interesting part. Before we get started with the course, we are going to raise a small fund, from corporations, foundations and investors.  

5.  We are going to then seed investment capital to the best plans that the students come up with and put them into business upon graduation. (This I stole from Jeff Jarvis and CUNY so give him the credit here).

6. But here is where we get different.  We are going to set up a separate corporation: The Columbia Journalism School Development Corp.  (CJSDC).  We’re going to give the students 30% equity in their newly funded business venture, but the CJSDC is going to hold onto 70% of the equity.

7.  For the next two years, the CJSDC is going to shepherd the new businesses that it owns, so the student entrepreneurs aren’t just left to drift.

8.  We are looking for an exit strategy, so the goal of the CJSDC will be to sell the company, making a nice return to the student but also building up the investment fund for the future.

Now, most of these student projects are going to go nowhere. Which is fine. But let’s bear in mind that Google started as a student project at Stanford.  While we might have a lot of failures, all we really need is one or two Craigslists and we’re in business. 

And being in business is no crime.

43 thoughts on “How To Make Millions in Journalism

  1. Every now and then, NBC Nightly news will air with limited commercial interruption, as a corporation will sponsor the broadcast. Does that result in less viewers or greater skepticism? Hardly.

    In fact, it typically results in higher ratings as viewers prefer to watch uninterrupted news rather than commercials. NBC makes a profit, Brian Williams gets more face time and viewers are happy. Is there a downside?

    The idea that journalists start using their skills towards their own benefit is great – why should the networks be the only ones to profit? And the idea that business planning, strategy and execution will be taught while honing one’s journalism skills is even better. Good luck.

  2. yes? and? I use Youtube as a platform to share the work my VJs do so they can see it. I don’t make a living from Youtube! What’s your point? and take a look at The Cost of Heroin. That has more than half a million hits….

  3. Like Mike Lemonick, above, I’m curious about the reaction you received. I think this proposal sounds pretty damn good!

  4. You argue that tenured college professors cannot teach what they cannot do.

    Selling seminars to aspiring Travel Channel videojournalists is not the same as creating videos that people want to watch. You don’t make pocket change with the videojournalism you produce – so what exactly is the difference between you and the people whose jobs you want?

    What was your role in the heroin video? Is that an example of the type of “new” OMB video you are promoting?

  5. Michael, let me see if I understand this correctly.

    I have 3 kids, two are out of college and working and my third is still in, I’ve been paying for all this. Are you suggesting that after I paid upward to 100K for each of my kids education, after they graduate they have to start creating their own industry to make a living. And The dean of The Columbia School of Journalism agree to this? Are you guys out of your frigging mind?

  6. Nino – The fact is that thousands of graduates are unable to find work in their chosen field. That’s not entirely the fault of Mike Rosenblum.

  7. uh.. hello… the concept was called “Entrepreneurial Journalism”… @Nino, if your kids aren’t entrepreneurs then this isn’t for them. and 30% equity for your first two years out of college with the guidance of a superstructure and then the possibility of the capital from a sale of said concept.. it’s brilliant to an entrepreneur. @Digger, per all the YouTube slams at Michael — come on — no where in the “Entrepreneurial Journalism” summary did he talk about making videos or selling them to YouTube. obviously you have some sort of issue with Michael but at least keep yourself on the issue presented (it’ll make you look smarter — even if you aren’t).

  8. Don’t confuse unemployment with an industry that doesn’t exist like the one Michael and those other brains suggest.

    Read his number 2 on his post. He is talking about business school and that’s nothing wrong with that, I have a associate in business and the only reason that I went to business school was because people in the creative business are notorious for being bad businessmen; Michael is talking about creating a business opportunity that doesn’t exist anymore and what’s left is slowly going away.

    There’s no journalism business now, what make them think that four years from now there when these kids graduate there will be a business there so they can make a living. As a parent would you invest a 100K on your child education knowing that currently the industry in a irreversible decline?

    If some business expert would show some realistic projections on the future of the business then I would give it some consideration, but I doubt that these guys that come up with all these ideas can even balance their own checking accounts.

    I can tell you what is happening, parents like myself are steering kids away from journalism because there’s no future there, meaning that people like the Dean of Columbia college, Mr. Jarvis and all those who make a high living at parents expenses are looking at the unemployment line, so they are having these brains storms on how to save their jobs.

    These are the same people who screwed the industry to begin with. They’ve been sending everybody to the web because that where the future is supposed to be, they forgot however a small detail, how to make money from the web, they are the ones that should have gone to business school in the first place.

    Michael has been broadcasting that newspapers and television are finished, the end is near; one small detail however, all these web sites are being supported by what’s left of the newspapers and any TV programs going on the web was paid from television revenue. The web is not making any money at all. Suddenly these big brains realized that they screwed up and trey to come up with all these idiotic ideas.

    I agree that journalism should learn business too, but it’s too little and too late. Go to business school and also take journalism classes.

  9. Talk is cheap, I know Michael for almost seven years and he’s been doing a lot of talking, as far as results goes is a different story. Let’s see these brains come up with actual example of future potentials. He is talking about business plans, well, let’s see some.

  10. OK – yes I’m with you. Any institute of higher learning does have a responsibility not just to do the best they can, but to vouch for the value and relevance of what they are teaching.

    If they cannot do that then yes I agree they should not accept the fees.

    BTW the heroin piece MR boasts about. It was made by a career BBC journalist. He also made an award winning TV doc following butane addicts in 1997 – 10 years before the heroin piece was posted on Youtube. I suspect the heroin piece also dates from back then – it has a very old-fashioned feel to it.

  11. Hi, dear Michael… I’m Ilirian Agolli, VOA stringer from Tirana, Albania… Remember me?… Maybe I’m one of the first group of your VJ students… VOA TV had 10 anniversary at November 9… You must Know That… You Inspired, Created, Founded That from VJ concept…

    I remember you every day… You, Mark, Joy, Lara, Drew, and the others… Tomas Kamilindi participated in your promo at the front page… You changed my life by VJ vision… Now I’m a VJ for more than 10 years… I read and learn your introductions and essays almost every day…

    I’m very glad to see your job is enlarging more and more…
    Long time no hear, no emailing, but as you said many years before in Kavala, Greece… WE SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE…

    Maybe, I will send you any piece of my VJ stories… afraid it wouldn’t be great. like the other students…

    Best Regards

  12. Great idea. It’s similar to an I’ve discussed with some friends before. An important angle of morphing j-schools into startup incubators is making sure students, faculty and advisers are able to learn from each others’ efforts. Basically, you would build lessons not only on general principles, but what you’ve learned from past successes and failures.

  13. Hey Ilirian
    I cannot believe it is ten years!
    Oh my God! How time flies.
    So glad to see that you are still doing the VJ thing.
    By all means, please send me links to your stories.
    Love to see them.

  14. Just want to share this with Digger.

    “”But advertising revenues fell during the quarter that ended Sept. 30 at newspapers worldwide and local TV stations in the U.S.

    Murdoch said he “wouldn’t promise” to begin charging for online access to the company’s newspapers, which include The New York Post or The Times of London, by next June.

    When asked on a conference call what the delay was, Murdoch said, “with everything.”

    “There is a huge amount of work going on. It is not just with our sites, but with other people,” said Murdoch, 78.

    The company is facing multiple challenges, including an advertising downturn and the shift of readers to the Internet, although local TV ad revenues were recovering this month and seen improving in December, Murdoch said.””

    The full article can be found at:

    Digger and others naysayers, open your eyes!

  15. What if there is no way to make money from Journalism? It seems quite likely as yet nobody has found a way other than more charging kids for pointless courses.
    If none of the students can think of something that we in the industry have all missed, will they get their money back?

  16. Stephen
    There are a lot of ways to make money from journalism, but you have to expand your definition of journalism. Craigslist is journalism, Google is journalism. Journalism is the acquisition, editing, processing and redistributing of information. And there is a ton of money to be made in that business. We have to get past this very narrow view of journalism as reporting on a few dead bodies found in a house. Once we do that, the world is open to us. And if we don’t take it, trust me, someone else surely will.

  17. Kevin – what do you think I am saying “no” to?

    MR says “any idiot can do it”.

    I say no to that. I think Murdoch sees it my way. Same goes for Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Canon Sony. This is no time for idiots. Unless of course they want to be fleeced.

    You see I researched the issue pretty thoroughly and found out that he had nothing to do with the development of handicams, laptops or the internet. Read this blog for a while and you would think he had invented them all. But look it up – you will find I am correct.

    Just the idiot idea repeated relentlessly. But just ask: “name one person with no experience who took your course and paid off the fee using the skills they learned” – all of a sudden…


    So who benefits from the idiot idea? Not the idiots that’s for sure.

  18. Dear Digger
    When I say ‘any idiot can do this’ I mean that any idiot can try. Like any idiot can write a novel – it doesn’t mean that its going to be great, but now the technology is so inexpensive that anyone can try their hand at it. This was not always the case. For most of the history of television the cameras, the editing suites, the transmission towers were so expensive that the best you could hope for was a job working for Bill Paley. The best. And almost no one ever got to put their hands on a camera. Well now any idiot can.

    The same thing happened with the invention of the printing press. Prior to that, writing a book by hand was so expensive and complex that only the Monks in the monastery could do it. After Gutenberg, any idiot could try. And many did. And still do. And most fail. And so what?

    JK Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter was just another idiot who had never written a book before. She was not ‘professional writer’, but she did pretty well. The same thing can and will happen to video. The folks who I have taught, and there are lots and lots of them, are all out there making content. Just read the emails here and elsewhere. They are doing on their own what was ‘not allowed’ before by dint of cost and complexity. Now they can. And do. And will continue to do so.

    As for inventing cameras or laptops, I never laid claim to any of that, so don’t Fox News me an Al Gore.

  19. Michael, you forgot fortune cookies, I bet there’s real journalistic potential there.

    How do you do it Michael? So smoothly talking out of both side of your mouth?

    For the last 15 years you’ve been profiting from reducing the quality of journalism down to nothing. For year we’ve been hearing you saying that all it’s needed to be a journalist is you four days VJ course and everybody can do it. A few weeks ago you even suggested on this blog that your entire TCA graduating class should go right out on the street and shoot news for NBC, this after 4 days training (at $2500.00).

    You knew damn well that soon or later higher education will pay the price for your reckless greed. You and the others like you have reduced journalism to the same level of skills that it takes to flip hamburgers at McDonald, and at the same salary level as McDonald too. In view of all this mess that you created parents are not stupid, kids might be gullible because of their inexperience but not parents and they will not pay 100K of their hard earned money for their children higher education when a professor and consultant “YOU” has been telling that everybody can do it and all it takes is a few days of training. Now that the shit has finally hit the fan the journalistic higher education is panicking because parents aren’t sending their kids to those schools anymore because there’s no future, because they’ve been hearing you talking constantly about the end of journalism. And now you are asking parent to pay for higher education so the kids can try to create an imaginary industry that overpaid professors and consultants weren’t capable of doing?

    Talk is cheap and those ideas of yours are nothing more than hot air, show some real example, or are you expecting a 20 years old to come up with a business plan that you and those other brains haven’t been able to do it. Do you realize that your revenue has nothing to do with journalism? You make money convincing kids that there’s potential out there but haven’t shown much yet.

    Care to take a stroll down memory lane and see all you sure things that will make people (that pays you $2500) millions?

    I’m taking these out of top of my head but the list could be longer if I go back in my files.

    Let’s see, for the last several years you predicted:

    The cable industry needs programming 24/7, who will provide those? Your VJ students of course, those who paid you $2500 for your VJ course. There’s tons of money to be made there. Care to explain what happen to those predictions?

    There will be an explosion in requests for videos produced for the web, The future earning potential is unlimited, who will do those, your VJ of course. What ever happen to those Michael?

    About those DIY (Do It Yourself) videos, there will be an incredible demand on cable channels, who will do those? Your VJ that paid you $2500 of course, care to show any of those videos?

    And what about “What’s Your Trip”? That was the highly promoted (by you) cable show on the TC about VJ created contents, those who paid you $2500 of course. I believed there was one show and it was a disaster.

    Then the was “The Morning After” not the pill, the corporate videos of conventions and event recorded by VJ, what a great potential that was, right? Where’s that now?

    I could go on and on with all your dead-end projections ideas that cost our kid a lot of money and got absolutely nowhere.

  20. Hi Cliff, back together just like old times…… and your valuable contribution to the topic is just as intelligent and concise as it ever was.

  21. This is in response to Nino and Digger.

    First I guess I’m any idiot. I’ve more than paid off my fee to the TCA, although that wasn’t my first exposure to video production. In 1982, I bought a very used bread truck, 2 JVC Novicon tube cameras, a couple of tape decks and a bunch of TEAC/Tascam audio gear and attempted to be one of the first mobile recording facilities for the average Joe. I paid off my gear and got the hell out. From there I became a stockbroker and executive producer raising funds for mostly “B” features in Florida during the Universal and Disney/MGM boom. I’ve been successful in several businesses and fell on my ass a few times as well. I’m also a pretty good photographer. Most of my background is business. A few years ago, I was flying home from Puerto Vallarta and saw the Travel Channel Academy ad on an in-flight show. I signed up, not knowing what to expect.

    I’ve not really attempted to sell anything to the TC, and haven’t come up with anything that I think is hot enough to pitch to them. However, what I learned from Michael (and I’m not defending him, he is perfectly capable of that on his own), is that there is a very unique opportunity that exists for someone to make a tremendous amount of money on. This opportunity exists for the same type of VJ’s that Michael has trained.

    So what do I know about traditional broadcast or print journalism.. ..not a damn thing, and I don’t want to know, they are failing. But I do know what I’m about to do and I know that it will work.

    So in short, I have a very good business plan. So much so that one of the largest investment banking law firms on the planet requested to represent us and is in the process of preparing a very large private placement. If you would like to know more, I would be happy to share this information with you, I need however, a letter from your CPA, listing you as an accredited investor and you will need to sign off on our Confidentiality, Restricted Use and Non–Circumvention Agreement ; then we can discuss this in detail.

    Have a great day!

  22. So what’s you point? You are telling us that you’ve failed as far as videographer and photographer and now you are peddling investments?

    Journalism is only a very small fraction of the video and photo industry, it is also the one that easy to fool people with it because there’s very little to compare it with and it’s the only place where you can disguise incompetence. There’s another 90 percent of video and television business out there that has been doing rather well in spite of the economy but in order to get a piece of that business you need a lot more skills that Rosenblum will ever be able to teach, that’s why there are no VJ outside the dying news business. When Michael doesn’t know something he tell his student that it’s not necessary, boring, outdated, etc. Yet broadcasters and corporate clients spend hundreds times more on these project that they do with news, and on these job VJ do not exist. I get paid in two weeks of work what Michael own VJs at his Verizon Hyperlocal makes in one year, this is no bragging and I’m not alone, this is to tell other how valuable skills are in this industry; the majority of established and well educated TV and video photographers make the same or even more, these are what Michale and his students refer to as dinosaurs and extincted, soon to be gone forever, he’s been saying this for at least seven years and our business has been growing steadily and uninterrupted, if anything the presence of VJ has increased the appreciation that clients have for our skills.

    VJ is a good start but is a dead end and when Michael says that any idiot can do it he is referring to those who think that now that they can shoot small insignificant stories that nobody really cares and if they get paid for it’s peanuts they can actually make a living doing that.

    All these VJs are young people easily impressionable, let see a show of hands of how many with the VJ skills have been able to buy a home, make a comfortable living and put kids thru college while planning for a safe and comfortable retirement.

    PS, I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I have a master degree in photography, cinematography, photojournalism and arts. I also have an associate in business management.

    Here’s some of what Michael and his disciples call “boring work”, that BTW has taken me all around this globe. http://www.ninomedia.TV

  23. Michael,

    This is a brilliant idea. I’m a part-time J-school student studying digital media (after spending 18 years in print) and think your idea will be the wave of the future.

    I’d like that future to start now.


  24. Ooops my bad.

    I said


    I should have added


    “Any idiot can do it” really means “Any idiot can try to do it”.

    Shouldn’t we add a snigger on the end of that second statement?

  25. Nino,

    I’m also a certified master of photography and my photography has taken me many places on the globe as well. Regarding failure, everyone is destined too at some point. The difference is knowing when to have the good sense to stop beating a dead horse.

  26. No.
    And you are correct.
    Anyone is now free to try.
    That is something entirely new for the TV business.
    Some will fail, some will succeed. But the barrier to entry has been blown away, and for those who used to live in the very protected and rarefied air of the past, it is a very scary thing.
    And, of course, we are only at the beginning.
    It reminds me of how professional newspaper writers used to rail against bloggers in their bathrobes in Brooklyn.
    Well, of course, in the end, it was the bloggers in their bathrobes who came to dominate the discussion as the newspapers sink slowly in the west.

  27. I’m not trying to be critical, but what are you saying? Evidently you invested in a good education but it didn’t work out for you, it happens. You then took the TCA course but haven’t done anything with that either; why? Did you take the course hoping that it would resuscitate the dead horse?

    We all had our ups and down, that’s how we learn and if you would detail what led to the failure you might be saying something useful that perhaps others could avoid. What you are basically saying here is to get out of the business and invest with you or try something else.

    I can tell you that the number of bad investments far exceed the number of photographers that went out of business.

  28. Why do you feel the school should get 70%? Venture incubators like TechStars *give* the entrepreneur up to ~$20k to start a business and only take 5%.

  29. First, I have never dealt with a VC that takes 5%. Gives 5% maybe. They aren’t called Vulture Capitalists for nothing. Beyond that, I think 30% is a great deal for a student with an idea, no money and no track record. Third, the CJSDC would not only give them the money but would hand hold them for up to two years to guide them through the process of building a business. This is no passive investment but a partnership. Finally, my first investor, Jan Stenbeck put $1 million into my first concept and gave me 30% equity share. I was pretty happy and pretty motivated with that. Worked then, should work now.

  30. Venture Capitalists compete with one another in an open market. That’s what keeps them honest.

    You want a closed shop where applicants pay to get in and the take whatever you want to offer. That would be Venture Feudalism.

  31. the students have absolutely no requirement to take the money. They are more than free to shop their ideas around anywhere they like. In fact, I would encourage it.

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  33. I think this is an interesting concept! Students are looking for as much “practical” knowledge as possible and this sort of incorporates the education w/ real world experience aspect of it while providing mentorship.

    best of luck!


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  36. I read a real newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 20 minutes every day, to residents of a health care facility. Hard to believe that any one website or even a group of sites will ever provide a convenient, timely source of local, national and international news and advertising, differing opinions, advice and entertainment with BIG color photos and hard-hitting political cartoons the way a publication like the Strib does. If journalism is fading, it’s because too many people are forgetting what a great newspaper can do, including preserving our great democracy. Blogs and public input may help. But impartial, informed journalists who aren’t afraid to do the digging and the legwork and risk revealing vital truths under their bylines must survive for the good of all.

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  38. I think nino is a failure completely, and is trying to pull others down to where he is. Great Idea Michael
    Keep it up

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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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