Secrets of Successful Startups

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Know how your organization will distinguish itself from the rest, have a business plan that you are passionate about, find what will bring value to your readers, and be courageous.

These are some pieces of advice given by Kim Yong Jin of the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism, Christian Humborg, executive director of CORRECT!V and Teun Gautier, owner of Gautier CIMC, in the GIJC15 panel New Models and Startups.

Kim Yong Jin explained the success of the nonprofit Korean center, also known as Newstapa, which he founded in 2012.

“People respond to exclusive, original, powerful information,” said Kim, as he described Newstapa’s investigation of the Sewol ferry disaster—its most watched episode with 1.6 million views—that attracted a wave of new subscribers to the site.

TheSONY DSC path to success requires hard work, Kim insisted.

In the first year, “we barely made enough money to go around,” he said of Newstapa’s start with just eight staff. “We only had a few video cameras and didn’t even have our own office.”

Today the number of donations has substantially increased, and the newsroom has more than 30,000 dues-paying members. Kim’s advice to entrepreneurs is to first prove that your content has an added value before asking donors for money.

He pointed out the importance of maintaining good relations with the donors. Some practical ways to do this:

  • Set up a text-message alert service when new content is published.
  • Distribute a regular newsletter from the editor-in-chief.
  • Distribute paraphernalia such as calendars and bumper stickers.

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What advice would you give people that have a small organization or are at an experimental phase?

Teun Gautier: I think you should team up and do it collectively.

Kim Yong Jin: It’s important to have the ability but also the courage.

Christian Humborg: Decide what you are passionate about and what you are good at.

Financing Quality JournalismAccording to Humborg, CORRECT!V’s initial financial success was largely due to a 3 million euro donation which is keeping the organization afloat during its first 3 years.

Today, CORRECT!V employs 16 full-time workers—including data-driven journalists and developers—and operates with freelancers. The nonprofit continues to expand.

SONY DSC“Right now we are building a TV studio. We are trying to go more into the moving picture area,” Humborg explained.

“You should team up, and use freelancers. It is important to work collectively, and not only focus on individual journalists.”

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Gautier, who has been involved in media startups and new business models, said that money is not the measure of all things, and that a strict orientation on profit can undermine journalistic principals. He introduced a new report that he contributed to, Financing Quality Journalism, which lists 52 ways for journalism organizations to generate revenue.


The authors are journalism students at the University College of Volda who are on special assignment covering #gijc15.  

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