Business Assessment

This wiki is built in conjunction with and as a tool for the Business Assessment Group portion of the Reynolds Journalism Institute's Collaboratory on entrepreneurial journalism. It breaks down major areas of consideration for assessing whether a journalistic enterprise is or can be a business, highlighting revenues, expenses and assessing the competitive environment. Most of the links are to areas of the Collaboratory site that flesh out the outline below, and serve as a tool. Others are to tools available from elsewhere that can help in making an entrepreneurial journalistic endeavor -- especially one centered around a local community or a niche interest group -- viable.

REVENUE CONSIDERATIONS:

Audience and Traffic (this and many other links below are to relevant RJI "Business Assessment Tools" blog posts)
  • Audience Size. How large is the potential audience in your region or interest area?
  • Audience Profile. What are the income levels, needs, etc. of the community? (Are there a lot of families with young children? Elderly with medical needs? Etc.)
  • Likely traffic. How much of the potential audience can get to your site, blogs, mobile applications, etc, over time? How many visits will they make each day, week, month? How many pages do they view per visit? What sections are most popular?

Advertising

Direct Sales and Services
  • E-commerce. What products might you sell? Logo hats, mugs, pens, etc.
  • Reprints. Can you sell them?
  • Print versions of your publication. There are technologies to let you print out your website and/or blogs and sell them as print publications. This can also help ad sales.
  • What expertise might you have you can offer to the community? Writing, printing, Web design, publishing consulting, etc., that you might charge for?
  • Events. Can you put on events that will bring in revenue, and have the added benefit of marketing your site and solidifying your community?
  • Are there subscriptions you can sell, perhaps to a special area of your site, or for special access?
  • What access or technology might users pay for? Anything from Web storage to the ability to specially parse and save clippings, special access to databases of local businesses, etc.

Philanthropic Funding

EXPENSES:
  • Fixed costs. Rent, utilities, furniture, and so on.
  • Technology and infrastructure. Anything from computers on site to server space. Don’t forget content management systems, Web storage, potential ad serving costs and the like.
  • Legal and contractual expenses, including business fees paid to the government.
  • Variable costs associated with business activities: How much is the “cost of sales,” for example staff and phone lines to handle advertisers and give customer service? If you’re doing an event, how much will the venue, food and insurance cost? What about office expenses other than rent that fluctuate with your sales campaigns? Travel? Education?
  • Staff (which are technically variable costs), deserve special thought. What skills are needed -- editorial, ad sales, technical, etc? How much must you pay them in your locale? Don't forget to include benefits and any extra taxes or expenses required by regulation.
  • Marketing - will spreading word about the site cost you money?

COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT:
  • Do you have a defensible market position? Can you maintain a competitive edge? What advantages do you have, editorially, technologically, etc.?
  • Who else is going after your audience?
  • What other options do your potential advertisers have to reach their target audiences? (Eg, if a business can more easily buy Google ads or make their own Website, why advertise with you?)