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Vibrant Possibilities for Media's Future.

You just need to recognize the oppportunities.


From the November 4, 2009 MiNDTV blog.

I ride my bike around Philadelphia all the time and I see potential.

The boarded up buildings could become beautiful homes, the trash-filled lots could be community gardens, the empty storefronts could be grocery stores or small businesses of some sort. I imagine vibrancy where there is currently desolation.

I can't help it. I'm an idealist. And a dreamer. Rather than focus on the neglect or the devastation, I try to think about what's next, about how we move forward.

Journalism is in that desolate stage.

Everyday, you read and hear about bankruptcies and layoffs. Magazines like Gourmet, Vibe and Blender have shuttered (or at least ceased production of their print editions). Television stations are losing viewers and advertising dollars are drifting away.

It's not pretty, and journalists are great for telling people about their struggles.

But as traditional big media outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine or NBC10 trim their staffs, leaving vast stretches of the region virtually uncovered in the media, opportunities arise. People want information. And they get frustrated when they can't find it.

If you can recognize a niche audience - whether geographic or specific interest - you can potentially build a sustainable media business, as well as perform a needed service.

There have been aggressive entrepreneurs over the years who have recognized these underserved niches and survived financially.

Tyree Johnson started the Westside Weekly community newspaper 20 years ago after a celebrated career as a watchdog journalist in print and on television. Now he writes stories, takes pictures, sells ads and does everything in between in order to put out his newspaper serving the West Philadelphia/ Cobbs Creek area. The money gets tight, for sure. But he's doing invaluable service to a community that generally only winds up in the Daily News or on Action News when someone has been murdered. Johnson's newspaper highlights the best and worst of the neighborhood. And it is affordable for community businesses to advertise, and thereby survive. His newspaper actually fosters the community.

There are many people like him in the Greater Philadelphia region. Hernan Guaracao started Al Dia when he realized that there were no outlets serving (nor covering in a comprehensive way) the Spanish-speaking communities in the area.

The guys at magazine created their youth culture outlet when they realized that the burgeoning, multicultural, creative scene was being ignored by mainstream publications.

Sarah Lockard started about a year ago, recognizing the area's thirst for magazine-style stories and images.

As traditional media stumble, there are gaps that can be filled by intelligent, visionary people who can produce credible, relevant journalism. They also need to understand the business end of things, something journalists have historically shunned.

This Saturday (11/7/09) at Temple University, we're bringing together a bunch of the region's media entrepreneurs so that we can learn from their experiences, and maybe learn how to follow their paths.

We'll also have business leaders talking about marketing, branding, and basic business planning.

The idea is to inspire people to see what could be, and give them the financial training to make their dreams an economically sustainable reality. Everyone is invited to attend.

Rather than dwell on the current bleak state of the news industry, we're trying to imagine the next big thing. And the next big thing may well be small.

But it will definitely be entrepreneurial.